Oct 252020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

If you managed to keep up with shifting Covid-19 government advice, changing statistics and the evolving list of related health complications, congratulations.

If you have mastered the Rule of Six, know when you are or aren’t in a relationship, have figured out when you’re free to break the rules ‘in a specific and limited way’, and when it is or is not acceptable to drive to Barnard Castle, perhaps you can explain to the rest of us why pubs and restaurants are risky, but schools are safe.

Advice on children and Covid-19 is as changeable as everything else to do with this disease, and yet teachers, staff, parents and students are being reassured by some school heads that ‘school is perfectly safe’.

How safe is ‘perfectly safe’?

A teacher’s perspective: An arse covering exercise.

“Risk assessments have been talked about more than anything else in every school, folk that are employed to do them have seen their workload go through the roof recently because they’re needed as an arse-covering exercise.

Teachers will get Covid and die; their family members will too, children will spread it to vulnerable people they’ll die too.

“The risk assessment will be used to justify that ‘we all knew what we were signing up to’ and that’s true to a point. It’s all about getting people back to work and getting taxes and money coming back into the system. Safety is secondary to that.”

The Safety Expert: Not enough detail.

We invited an expert to look for risk assessments, and we sent a representative sampling from the short (1 to 3 page) document to the massive document (over 30 pages). We looked at scores of risk assessments – some schools happily publish them; others feel they should not be shared – which rather defeats their purpose.

Our expert wrote:

“ In preparing risk assessments not enough detail is put into them and people tend to just put in an overview and think it’s sufficient when dealing with a highly contagious virus. 

“What needs to happen is every small detail needs to be looked at, the slight act like passing a pen to each other can prove fatal down the line, therefore this highlights the actual need to be doubly vigilant in the preparation of a risk assessment” 

Risk assessment should identify every task involved in an enterprise (such as a school day) from students lending each other pens to touching surfaces to grouping together. 

A valid risk assessment identifies every activity’s possible risk and then determines how likely or unlikely the risks can be (from catching or transmitting Covid-19, being mildly ill with it – or worse). 

A robust risk assessment then determines how likely or unlikely the risks are before corrective measures are made, so it can prescribe the corrective measures to lower the risk. 

Aberdeen’s Oldmachar Academy has a 31-page risk assessment document based on government templates seen elsewhere; it mingles Covid-19 and non-Covid issues (lift maintenance for instance).

Staff are mentioned 137 times; the word pupil appears 47 times. It is cumbersome, and the actual risk matrix says nothing concrete about the risks of Covid-19 – illness, death, transmission, long Covid etc.

Three Aberdeen City schools have had Covid-19 cases.

It is not easy to use and is not geared for all the people who are meant to be covered by it. As adults we find it cumbersome; if we were pupils, we’d find it less than user friendly.

It scores diseases as medium risk; though permanent health problems and death are present when Covid-19 is present.

Despite the time-sensitive, urgent nature of our request for risk assessments, Aberdeen City Council suggested we do a Freedom of Information request rather than have its media department send all or at least some of it for us to review.

The city should have had all the assessments in and professionally reviewed before schools opened. As it happened, the city’s risk assessments were still not finalised in the last few days before its schools opened.

Three Aberdeen City schools have had Covid-19 cases.

How it handles these in the media follows a pattern seen elsewhere: dissuade the public from thinking there could have been school transmission; claim their risk assessment is robust; patronise parents by saying ‘we understand your fears’.

Here is what Bridge of Don Academy told the press:

“Mrs McWilliam said: “I would want to reassure parents and carers that there is no evidence of transmission of Covid-19 at Bridge of Don Academy and that the school has very good control measures in place.

“The strength of the control measures has enabled Public Health to advise that the school remain open to the vast majority of young people.

“I realise that this is unsettling news and want to reassure you that decisions have been made following a robust risk assessment process with public health.””

We have requested this ‘robust risk assessment’ but do not have it yet. How is it determined ‘there is no evidence of transmission?’

Teachers are not all keen on going to school; as we saw, our teacher states they believe teachers will die.

Covid-19 facts that dropped out of the curriculum.

Few if any risk assessments we saw which were prepared prior to school openings acknowledged the existence of long Covid (the lingering fatigue and other symptoms that can last weeks or months). Perhaps this is a very rare occurrence; some say it is.

Is it worth taking the risk though, or risking long-term or permanent heart, lung nervous system damage, and inflammatory syndromes striking young Covid-19 victims such as Kawasaki disease.

Some head teachers still seem happy to insist their schools are safe, to insist it is fine for children to mingle unmasked in groups which can range from a dozen to one hundred pupils, and that ‘safety is our main concern’.

Talking to parents, it is this insistence that all is well and there is no risk that causes their worry: how can a school be a sanctuary from a disease that is spreading elsewhere in a community?

In order to get children through the doors, parents are being threatened with fines, threatened with social worker visits, threatened with police visits, ridiculed (‘you are the only parent who has any worries’), threatened they are harming their child (children must socialise and must learn at the government prescribed rate). But possibly worst of all, they are being greatly misled.

Failing marks for factual information.

One sentence found in a few school bulletins up and down the country concerns symptoms; here is one variant (from South Grove Primary School):

“This means that if your child has a cold, they should still come to school just like they would have last year. If your child has symptoms that point to a cold, they can still come to school. These could be a blocked or runny nose, sneezing and/or itchy eyes.”

The problem is experts, including the CDC, advise the following concerning flu and Covid-19 symptoms:

“Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:
“Fever or feeling feverish/chills
“Cough
“Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
“Fatigue (tiredness)
“Sore throat
“Runny or stuffy nose
“Muscle pain or body aches
“Headache
“Some people may have vomiting and diarrhoea, though this is more common in children than adults” 
– https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm

If the schools are handing out advice contrary to world experts, it hardly inspires confidence.

Unsurprisingly, some teachers and parents fear retaliation if they talk to reporters on the subject. Many tell us they ‘are not allowed’ to tell others if their school has had a positive Covid-19 case. This stifling of expression would have been contrary to European Human Rights law – but that seems like something we don’t need to worry about any longer.

One school wrote to parents, advising their child might have been exposed to an infected peer to self-isolate for 14 days:

“We must prioritise the health and safety of our students first and foremost.”

It begs the question: if they were prioritising health and safety, wouldn’t they allow students to study at home and take lessons remotely?

The government maintains its recalcitrant stance against this sane, risk-mitigating measure.

With a vaccine in the pipeline with several pharmaceutical companies, would it be that bad to save lives and educate at home for a number of months?

Yes, children need to play, socialise, learn and be around others: but if junior falls behind a few months but is free of long-term health issues, surely that is worth it.

BRTUS

Parents’ advocates Boycott a Return to Unsafe Schools (BRTUS) keeps a map of school Covid-19 occurrences, and its Facebook page is filled with discussion.

A BRTUS spokesperson said:

“Boycott Return To Unsafe Schools is campaigning for a Sensible, Safe and Sustainable return to schools, which should take consideration of local infection rates and include properly resourced blended or distance learning where appropriate.

“BRTUS understands the pressures teachers are under, and BRTUS is concerned for the welfare of all who are in the school environment – students, teachers and staff.

“Our map of Covid-19 cases within schools demonstrates that a return to full classes in the most densely populated classrooms in Europe is unsustainable and threatens the safety of society as a whole.

“In addition to sending newspaper reports to add to our map, parents have forwarded us communications they have received from their school, confirming cases which have not always reached the media. Some parents state they have been pressured not to discuss the case outside of their school community, and express concern that we will ensure anonymity. “

This is just one example of unacceptable treatment being endured by parents; the blanket policy of compulsory attendance fines – irrespective of local infection rate or the health risk factors of family members – is entirely inappropriate in the context of a pandemic.

“This policy has a detrimental impact on the mental health of family members including children, and alongside lack of funding prevents schools from providing appropriate support for home learning in order to protect children’s academic progress.

“With cases rising once again the Government must now formulate a properly funded plan for education which will minimize the opportunity for schools to be vectors of transmission, protect children’s educational outcomes and ensure the safety of families who are at increased risk from Covid-19.”

Parents said:

Parent A:

“The headteacher hates any disruption to their usual [routine] and any complaints tend to be quashed pretty quickly.  Their risk assessment was poor to say the least, as most points there were useless or still to be done.

“Even though the school is in the area with most cases in our town, they supposedly remain Covid free. It just simply doesn’t make sense. Rumours started amongst students that a teacher got it and when enquiring about that, I was told that the school doesn’t comment on rumours.

“Regardless of the fact that my own child had direct contact with this teacher, they refused to confirm if he is waiting for results or already has a positive result. 

“Our local newspaper has published that the council confirmed that “a number of schools have had positive tests”, yet only one school has been named. I do believe my children’s school has been affected by now.”

Parent B:

“If my child gets sick who is to blame? Me? The school or the government?”

Parent C:

“We’ve even been threatened with police!”

Parent D:

“We don’t want to deregister but we’ve been told we’ll be fined.”

Parent E:

“My head teacher says I am the only parent who has worries”

Parent F:

“The school says it will send social workers because I don’t want my child in school.”

Other parents talk about an absence of social distancing and masks at drop off and pick up times; parents with conditions such as asthma do not feel they are being taken into account, some find out their head teacher have called their child’s physician to discuss the parent’s reticence to send their child to school.

One thing bothering teachers, staff and parents is how widely varying policy and procedures vary from one school to the next. Some schools are having giant bubbles of the entire year; some have small bubbles of different classes within a year.

Some have taken the concept of ventilation to extremes insisting windows must be left open all the time (one parent told of a puddle forming in the back of a classroom when it rains) but will not let children wear coats to keep warm (cue potential respiratory illnesses) – and a school in Aberdeenshire has classrooms where windows cannot be opened.

Children in one school will eat at their desks; others will eat outside in all weather – standing up.

There is nothing logical, scientific or even consistent going on in the country’s schools when it comes to the pandemic. Maybe students will not die – but we believe the risk to teachers, staff and parents has not been addressed sufficiently.

If you think we are being overly dramatic or fearmongering by bringing up the risk of death, don’t blame us, here’s a quote from Matt Hancock:

“Don’t kill your gran.”

Hancock was referring to young people not keeping social distance: what exactly does he think happens in a school setting?

Image by Steve Riot from Pixabay

Aug 082020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen City Council yesterday admitted that it has not finalised revising risk assessments for next week’s school openings and have refused to release the assessments to Aberdeen Voice.
Students are due to return to school despite a new lockdown in Aberdeen City Centre in response to the recent Covid-19 outbreak.

The City told Aberdeen Voice the school risk assessments were being revised.

With days to go before schools open, Aberdeen Voice asked for sight of the assessments; a city council spokesperson said:

“These are internal documents which we would not routinely share with the media. You can of course submit an FOI request.”

Aberdeen Voice replied it had never received a freedom of information request response from the city in less than 25 days – clearly too late for concerned parents

The City pointed Aberdeen Voice to its website when we first asked about safety for students, teachers and everyone connected to schools. The website lacks any specific provision details – but does say that distance learning has virtually been ruled out:  and parents must send children to school.

Additionally, on the Aberdeen City Council website, it says that risk assessments have been done. 

However earlier today ACC told Aberdeen Voice: 

“These will be discussed and agreed with all staff at the beginning of next week and before children return.  This is in keeping with the best practice advised in the national guidance. The risk assessments are informing the information that is being shared with families.” 

How the city can claim the assessments are done when they are now being redone, and claim ‘the information that is being shared with families’ but will not release the assessments to the general public is unclear.

The TUC is one of many organisations to publish its Covid-19 risk assessment; its website reads:

“UK law says every employer with more than five staff must produce a risk assessment. And new government guidance for the return to work after the coronavirus pandemic says that these risk assessments should be published on employers’ own websites.”

One school proud of its risk assessment that has published it to its website is Blackheath; it can be seen here: 

Parents and teachers throughout the UK are concerned at safety and according to The Scotsman only 1 in 5 teachers are confident about returning to the classroom.

The myth that children are ‘nearly immune’ to Covid-19 has been dispelled; they are not only efficient carriers who can transmit the virus to others, but when infected themselves, they may be prone to syndromes including multisystem inflammatory syndrome and Kawasaki syndrome.

Aberdeen Voice also awaits comment from Aberdeenshire council and Unison.  We are happy to continue receiving information and questions from parents, teachers and health professionals who alerted us to the situation.

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Jul 142017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

As small businesses look to compete, grow and develop in today’s fast-paced digital world, they need first-class connectivity that will support their business needs today and far in to the future, one of Scotland’s leading experts in digital industry has said.
According to Graeme Gordon (pictured), Chief Exec of Aberdeen-headquartered IFB – a leading managed service and data network provider – keeping apace of the digital transformation will ensure firms are not overtaken by competitors, giving opportunities to increase productivity and future-proof their businesses as the thirst for greater bandwidth continues to grow.

“Digital technology is developing at rapid speeds, and although small businesses may find it hard to keep up, we’re constantly working on new solutions to ensure all businesses, regardless of size, can stay ahead and have access to the best digital connectivity for their business and to suit their needs,” comments Graeme.

“There is now a new wave of full fibre digital infrastructure available in Aberdeen and Edinburgh which provides superior connectivity speeds, and opens up greater opportunities for businesses. World-class connectivity is the key to success for running any business in the digital age. That’s why we’re constantly striving to meet businesses’ digital needs now and for decades to come.”

Powered by this new full fibre infrastructure, IFB Ultrafast offers lightning speeds to support businesses and help them grow and take up new opportunities that the digital economy offers. It’s a platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – the backbone of Scotland’s economy – to be part of the latest tech transformation with connectivity that is fast, reliable and fit for purpose, as speeds and connectivity take on even more relevance to the way business is done.

An increasing number of everyday business services and applications are now online and used as a matter of routine, these cover banking, accounting, sales tools, customer management systems, voice telephony and critical data backup and recovery systems   – all of which need to be accessed reliably and securely to support  the day-to-day workings of all modern businesses.

Graeme adds:

“Connectivity is at the heart of how all businesses operate and the next stage has arrived. This state-of-the-art full fibre digital infrastructure provides blistering connectivity speeds to support SMEs now and moving forward.”

The ultrafast network is delivered by IFB and powered by CityFibre in Aberdeen and Edinburgh – two of Scotland’s ‘Gigabit Cities’. It is being hailed as an affordable independent network offering superior speeds that leads to increased efficiency and productivity by dramatically accelerating the digital capabilities of business, providing quick data transfers between locations for backup and recovery.

To find out more call 0845 270 2101 or email geton@ifb.net

Aberdeen-based IFB is one of Scotland’s leading managed service and data network providers. For over 20 years IFB has been providing critical connectivity and ICT services to the UK market place. Its key markets include the demanding on and offshore oil and gas sector, professional services and public and third sector. It designs, deploys, manages and supports key services including Cloud, Backup and Recovery, Internet Access, Networks, Hosting, Workplace Recovery and Telecoms through national, multi-Gbit/s network that links Aberdeen, Edinburgh and London points of presence.

IFB can be contacted on 0845 270 2101 or geton@ifb.net. More about the company can be found at www.ifb.net

CityFibre is the UK’s builder of Gigabit Cities and the national alternative provider of wholesale fibre network infrastructure. It has major metro duct and fibre footprints in 42 cities across the UK and a national long distance network that connects these cities to major data-centres across the UK and to key peering points in London.

The company has an extensive customer base spanning service integrators, enterprise and consumer service providers and mobile operators. Providing a portfolio of active and dark fibre services, CityFibre’s networks address 28,000 public sites, 7,800 mobile masts, 280,000 businesses and 4 million homes.

CityFibre is based in London, United Kingdom, and its shares trade on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange (AIM: CITY).

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May 192017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

One of the biggest shake ups of European privacy legislation which is expected to have a significant impact on the way business is done comes into force in 12 months’ time.

It’s going to have a huge impact on how businesses store and process data and carries tough penalties and hefty fines for breaches.

The Government will implement the General Data Protection Regulation and it is expected that the UK will continue to comply with GDPR after Brexit – so all businesses should be assessing how they use personal data and how this legislation will affect the sector in which they operate.

Advanced planning is key to ensuring compliance with the new legislation which comes into force from 25 May 2018, according to Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

 “The changes that will come with the 2018 deadline will have implications for businesses of all sizes that handle the personal data of EU residents, regardless of location,” Mr Clark states.

“The GDPR is going to have a huge impact on how businesses store and process data and they need to act now to make sure they are properly prepared for this major overhaul of data protection legislation which will impact on us all. Dedicating time to this now will ensure businesses have procedures in place to be able to comply with the new regulation.

“This isn’t just for big businesses – a gym that offers a members’ loyalty scheme or a one-person chiropractor that asks patients to complete a wellbeing form will have to ensure that personal data is stored in line with the new regulations and not breach them.”

GDPR will directly apply in EU countries and replaces ageing European and national data protection legislation, with companies given until until May next year to adopt the measures and become compliant.

Influenced by technological advances, it introduces new accountability obligations, stronger rights and ongoing restrictions on international data flows. GDPR seeks to protect individuals whose personal data is handled by companies. Data processing refers to the handling, storage, evaluation, reference or general use of information relating to individuals. Businesses should only be collecting necessary data and discarding it when it is no longer required to protect data subject rights.

So an online retailer running a small e-commerce site that holds customers’ personal details is subject to GDPR regulations. And any company or individual providing marketing, IT, accountancy or business support that may have access to a wealth of client and customer data needs to ensure this is collected, stored and protected in specific ways.

One of the biggest considerations of the new regulations is ensuring sensitive data is handled correctly.

Government help to prepare for the regulation is available, with webinars, training courses and data flow audits and Mr Clark suggests a good starting point is to carry out a gap analysis of current processing in line with GDPR.

“Understand what data you hold, how you are using it, and make sure that you are practising good data hygiene by limiting access to data to only those who need it, and ensuring that authentication protocols are up-to-scratch for those users,” Mr Clark advises.

“Businesses should also consider deleting data that is no longer required so that it does not become an unnecessary risk.”

Clark IT is already working with clients to assess how GDPR will impact on them and the sector in which they operate, to guide them through the complexities of the legislation and to ensure they become fully compliant. The IT specialists can take clients through the process from start to finish using its unique portal and working with partners to cover legal, datacentre, insurance and finance matters.

While it may seem like a daunting process, GDPR should not be viewed as unnecessary red tape says Mr Clark, who predicts that the legislation has the ability to bring benefits to both businesses and individuals.

Mr Clark states:

“This creates a new single data protection act, and has scope to bring increased consistency to data protection practices, eliminating problems arising from the existence of different national variations.

“There are enhanced powers given to data protection authorities in tackling non-compliance and it will also be easier for individuals to claim against data controllers where their data privacy has been infringed.

 “GDPR will also give individuals greater control and rights over their personal data. As a result, individuals will be able to request that businesses delete their no longer necessary or accurate personal data.

“The regulation could also prove to be an advance in the war against cybercrime, given mandatory breach notifications. Taking GDPR seriously will see businesses invest in, and demonstrate, high levels of security which could in turn raise customer trust.”

Clark IT based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients not only in the North-east but across Scotland and beyond.

Its clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of its 26-strong workforce to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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Apr 202017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

A major UK business survey revealing that a fifth of British businesses have been hacked by cyber criminals hammers home the need for all firms to ramp up their defences against cybercrime.

With only a quarter of firms surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) saying their business has security measures in place to guard against hacking, Austen Clark of Clark Integrated Technologies warns that too many firms could be exposing themselves to the very real danger of being hit by cybercrime.

Mr Clark, managing director of the Turriff-based ICT firm, says that the BCC report published this week drives home need for all businesses ramp up security defences to protect against hacking – and there are simple, tangible actions that all organisations can follow to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

Larger companies – defined as those with at least 100 staff – are more susceptible to cyber attacks, according to the report, which found that 42% of big businesses had fallen victim to cybercrime, compared with 18% of small companies. Only a quarter (24%) of the survey’s 1,200 respondents said their business had security measures in place to guard against hacking.

Cybercrime can jeopardise a firm’s finances, confidence and reputation as well as causing disruption to business and productivity, warns Mr Clark, adding that while data breaches at web giant Yahoo, telecoms firm TalkTalk and the dating website Ashley Madison are the ones to grab headlines, the BCC report shows how worryingly widespread the problem is across the economy.

Mr Clark says:

“The internet brings huge opportunities but it also brings risks and every single day businesses face cyber-attacks, with attempts to steal information and money, or disrupt business. It is increasingly important to manage these risks to take advantage of the internet whilst protecting your business.

“As cybercriminals become more determined and better organised, no business can afford to take its eye off the ball. Firms of all sizes, from major corporations to one-man operations, can be victims so all need to be proactive about protecting themselves from cyber-attacks.

“Cybercrime is a bit like the elephant in the room – everyone has heard of it and has stories relating to ‘other businesses’ but no one wants to admit they have been hit by a cyberattack as there seems to be a stigma around being a victim of a scam or con. But reports like this one show the alarming extent of the problem, and its impact on the economy.”

The good news is that there are regular and simple actions that can be taken to help businesses promote good cyber health and Clark IT advises the following:

  1. Install and update anti-virus, anti-spam, and firewall/s
  2. Carry out regular updates on all software and devices
  3.  Change your password regularly (make it difficult to ever guess)
  4.  Secure your network
  5.  Provide clear and concise procedures for handling email, internet and mobile devices
  6.  Train your people in good security practices
  7.  Implement and test backup plans
  8.  Carry out regular security risk assessments to identify important information and systems
  9.  Carry out regular security testing of your business
  10.  Be suspicious – not everyone is a prince with $100 million dollars to send your way

Hacking attacks on British businesses has been said to cost investors £42bn.

Clark IT is based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire and is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients not only in the North-east but across Scotland and beyond.

Clark IT clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of the firm’s 26-strong team to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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Feb 102017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

As cybercrime continues to be a real and growing menace to business, data backup must become a greater part of continuity planning, according to a Scottish IT business leader.

Data backup is one of the most important areas of IT and yet is also one of the most ignored, Austen Clark of Clark Integrated Technologies has warned ahead of World Backup Day on March 31.

A study last year found that while 36% backup their business data entirely there are 36% who back nothing up at all.

“It is the time put a clear focus on data backup, with man-made cybercrime threats adding another dimension to the risk of data being destroyed or deleted” says Mr Clark.

“We are living in a data-driven society and data is crucial to the smooth running of any business.

“As such backing up data is an essential security measure in today’s computing world. The rise in ransomware attacks which effectively take data hostage from business is just one example of how data loss can happen.  An attack can has financial implications and can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds to businesses.

“Data has gained intrinsic value, either in the staff time needed to generate it or in its relevance to your clients. Data loss, both accidental and due to theft, costs millions of pounds to businesses every year.”

Mr Clark answers some of the most commonly posed questions around the subject.

What is backing up?

Quite simply, backing up is making a copy of your most important files which can be used if the original copy is lost, with the second copy ideally held at different location to the original and be kept in a secure environment.

It is usual for data to be saved to just one place, like ‘My Documents’ on a PC’s hard drive but if this data were accidentally changed or deleted it would take considerable time and expense to restore, with the possibility it may never to be recovered.

Growing numbers of computer viruses have become a risk to business information, and once they have infected your machine they may delete or corrupt your data.

Other common causes of date loss are physical failure of a PC or Server, accidental error, theft or disasters like fire, flood or even simply a dropped glass of water.

Data backup should be specifically tailored for your business.

What data should I backup?

When choosing what data to back up think about what you would need to continue working if your network was damaged.

Clients address, telephone details, your account information, important documents. How long has it taken you to collate all this information and what would happen if you couldn’t get it back once lost? These are the key questions to think about around backing up.

What types of backup are there?

There are various types of backup available and the one you choose will generally depend on time, security and budget. There are a number of frequently used backup solutions to suit business needs.

Memory stick devices tend to be used for smaller backups or mobile users. These are usually removable hard drives and are very popular. The disadvantages of these cheaper devices are that they are at times unreliable and easy to lose or damage due to their small size. The data which is held on them is usually unsecured, meaning if customer details or financial information is held on them this is a greater risk if they were to be lost or used by unauthorised personnel.

When a backup is done the previous backup is overwritten, meaning that only one version of the backup can be stored.

Tape backup is an old industry standard backup medium for businesses with a reasonable amount of data to backup. Daily, weekly and monthly backups can be carried out and as long as you have a managed tape rotation and store the tapes offsite it is a possibility to use this backup solution.

The disadvantages of tape are that it is slow, both to backup and to restore. As it is a manual process it can be subject to error and unless you remember to take the tapes offsite on a daily basis it is subject to the same threats as the original backup.

Online data backup is an efficient choice for small and medium businesses. There is no need to purchase hardware or software, just  a monthly service. Select the data you want to backup and it is transferred in an encrypted format to a high security data centre.

Backups are fully automated, meaning no user intervention is required and you can restore single files or full backups at the click of a mouse. Full protection and availability make this an attractive option. Different versions of backups are available, covering accidental changes made or deletions.

What other considerations are there?

Always test your recovery data – a backup is useless if it cannot restore correctly. Backup regularly, you don’t want to find out the last copy you made is several months old. Keep your backups off site, that way if you do lose data to a fire, flood or theft you know you can retrieve your information.

What about personal devices?

Research shows that 30% of people have never backed up but with 113 phones lost or stolen every two minutes and one in 10 computers infected with a virus each month it is just as important to back up data here too which means it can be saved in the event of a disaster or accident.

 

 

 

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Dec 162016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Graeme Gordon, Chief Executive Officer of IFB.

IFB, one of Scotland’s leading managed service and data network providers, has invested a further £1 million to expand its UK network capacities, specifically designed to increase fibre and ultra-high speed connectivity to firms across the UK.

Effective connectivity is critical for strong modern businesses in the digital economy with the demand not just being driven by devices – laptops, tablets and smartphones, but also from more complex data in sensors built in to the environments we live in.

Through its delivery of reliable, resilient, secure and fast connectivity to 1000’s of its SME and Enterprise business customers, IFB has the ability to move large volumes of business data around.

The investment allows IFB to continue this whilst delivering next generation fibre to the premise connections, assisting its customers in competing in today’s modern digital economy.

The investment has been made in new network fibres and hardware infrastructure connecting IFB’s main network and Data Centre hubs in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, London and Stavanger. As well as further enhancing the abilities of IFB’s super connected hubs in the London Internet Exchange (LINX) and at the Scottish Internet Exchange (IXScotland).

IFB also connects to Europe through trans-North Sea fibre connectivity, providing resilience and alternative routing for business data and traffic in and out of the UK. The investment is the next in a series of key developments IFB will be announcing during early 2017.

IFB’s CEO, Graeme Gordon commented:

“We are seeing rapid acceleration in the need, use and creation of diverse types of data from every shape and size of business, these businesses are sharing more data online and using more online applications and services.

“Cloud, or your data in an offsite data centre, means that getting to and from this data requires better connectivity – this ever increasing need will continue to grow as you combine more connected everyday object sensors and devices as part of The Internet of Things and as we start to talk about Industry 4.0 – seamlessly combining physical, digital and cloud based data and applications more of the time.

“We have seen a tenfold increase in bandwidth usage by our clients in the last three years driven by these and other key factors. For some time now our clients have not just been using the connections we provide to simply access the Internet, they are using it to back up and protect their data offsite, for access to online private and public applications, and to move more services such as voice and video calls off of traditional phone lines.

“This data demand calls for much higher, constant bandwidth availability simply to stand still, and in real terms much more bandwidth if you want to grow your market position. IFB’s investment means its clients can become much more productive and effective by creating and consuming the same amount of data in a much smaller period of time, or do much more in the same timescale.

“The enhanced network infrastructure also allows IFB to accelerate and deliver directly to the user, its own range of innovative and affordable cloud, data backup and hosted voice services to meet client’s individual needs.

“A recent survey by The Institute of Directors showed that 57% of its members store their data on owned or leased servers with 30% doing so in the cloud. 60% of members feel an increase in connectivity speed would improve competitiveness and 78% believed their organisation’s productivity would increase by an uplift in speed.”

IFB’s network expansion is part of a major project developed in partnership with one of its long term key technical suppliers, Softcat.

Seán Connolly, Account Director at Softcat says:

“We were delighted to collaborate with IFB to help expand their network capabilities. Our Cisco and Juniper technical design team complimented IFB’s existing skillset to deliver a robust, scalable solution fitting with IFB’s growth plans.”

 

Nov 102016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Photos by: Grant Anderson - www.grantanderson.me

Tesco Bank’s online hacking attack  has prompted the  boss of a North-east IT firm to issue a stark warning that cybercrime must be taken very seriously – and not just by national and international brands and corporations.

Small and medium enterprises are just as vulnerable and this latest attack is simply another indication of the damage that can be wreaked by hackers, according to Austen Clark, managing director of Clark Integrated Technologies.

Tesco Bank has more than 7 million customers accounts and confirmed “fraudulent criminal activity” was first identified late on Saturday with about 20,000 customers have had money taken from their accounts, with “suspicious activity” identified in another 20,000.

Mr Clark (pictured), a leading voice in the campaign to ensure owners of SMES defend against cyber criminals, has urged businesses to wake up to the realities, saying that the fast-paced and ever changing nature of information technology meaning new potential online risks are arising all the time.

Mr Clark states:

“Many firms may not realise the risk they face from cybercrime. Governments and multinational corporations are large targets but their increase in awareness and investment in defence against cyberattacks are leading to SMEs producing a more viable focus for hackers.

“There is a serious and important message for companies of all sizes that store and handle personal data. People’s personal information must be securely protected at all times.

“While under-reporting is massive, Federation of Small Business statistics show that two thirds of small businesses have been the victim to cybercrime in the past two years, while over a third of small businesses do not report crimes against their business. It’s time for small businesses to sit up, appreciate the potential severity of cyber-attacks and implement good risk management.”

Cloud computing has resulted in work no longer being a place but a task as flexible and home working options increase in the work place. With reliance on multiple internet connected devices only set to rise as well, cybercrime is something that everyone needs to guard against.

“We’ve observed that attackers are exploiting the new opportunities that these new ways of working creates,” Mr Clark continues.

“Attackers are now aware of your weakest locations, such as off-network devices and remote offices, furthermore they now target specific systems and users

“Attackers have the patience to acquire multiple footholds so then can launch an attack at the proper time – and are more motivated and sophisticated than ever to target company’s data. Data has been the driving force behind the latest attacks and is viewed as the world’s newest currency.”

Thankfully, businesses can increase their security online by securing their IT, having up to date malware protection, managing user privileges and working towards educating workers and raising awareness to of good practice.

Some of the most basic measures include:

  • Allow your software and applications to be updated as soon as possible.  These updates often contain vital security updates to protect your devices from new threats.
  • Never use obvious passwords like ‘password’. Add symbols and numbers and a mix of upper and lower case letters to ensure a strong password.
  • Delete and block suspicious e-mails and never open attachments or follow links contained within.
  • Don’t forget smartphones and tablets are at just as much risk from viruses and other forms of malware as computers.  Install anti-virus protection, keep it up to date and use it regularly.
  • Educate your staff on the dangers of cybercrime, both to the business and them as an individual and encourage them to use best practice

Mr Clark concludes:

“The internet brings huge business opportunities but it also brings risks and every single day businesses face cyber-attacks, with attempts to steal information and money, or disrupt business. It is increasingly important to manage these risks to take advantage of the internet whilst protecting your business.

“Focus on protecting data and standardisation and use independent advisers to manage your interests.

“If your business does become the victim of hacking, it’s important to dissect a breach after it has occurred as this can help understand how to prevent it from happening again. However, like most things, prevention is so much better than cure.

“There’s really no such thing as a silver bullet – all systems have weaknesses and vulnerabilities – but there is help and guidance available to help prevent against becoming the next victim of cybercrime.”

Clark IT is based near Turriff in Aberdeenshire and is one Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions with a broad range of corporate and commercial clients across Scotland and beyond.

Clark IT clients benefit from the specialist knowledge of the firm’s 22-strong team to support their systems and through managed IT services. Clients also benefit from Pro-active IT Support, 24/7 Monitoring, A virtual IT Manager, predictive IT costs and a strategic IT plan tailor-made for their business.

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Jul 142016
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Ballater BridgeAn updated guide will help steer walkers on course to the best of Ballater’s walks. A revised Ballater Paths leaflet maps out a selection of great walks in the area of differing lengths and challenges.

The popular resource has been refreshed after a number of popular pathways were damaged by the floods of late last year.

While some routes have been repaired and restored and are fully accessible, there are a couple that have been removed from the leaflet.

Richard Watts, of Ballater Business Association, says that bringing out a new version of the paths leaflet will help both local people and visitors alike make the most of the area – with the added benefit of showing that Ballater is very much on the mend after the flooding.

“Ballater has great walks right on its doorstep and there’s no doubt that access to the outdoors and to walks and other outdoor activities are among our area’s greatest strengths,” Mr Watts says.

“Through the publication of this new leaflet it shows people how easy it is to access our great walking routes and helps demonstrate that the Ballater area is on the mend and getting over the impact of the flooding caused by Storm Frank.”

The full colour leaflet outlines five routes of varying length, all starting and finishing in Ballater and boasting fine views, an abundance of wildlife and taking in local history too.

They include the 3.2km Craigendarroch Circular with the option of climbing to the summit to enjoy panoramic views towards the Cairngorm mountains including Lochnagar, or the 8km Deeside Way which follows the old Deeside railway line from Ballater towards Cambus o’May.

Each colour-coded route is shown on the map and there are corresponding coloured waymarkers along each route to guide walkers. The leaflet includes a route description to show its length, terrain and level of difficulty.

The revised edition has been produced by the Cairngorm Outdoor Access Trust (COAT), the environmental charity working to promote sustainable public access in the region.

Adam Streeter-Smith Cairngorm National Park Authority Outdoor Access Officer says:

“Ballater has always been blessed with fantastic walks and makes a great base for venturing further afield to explore the Cairngorms National Park.

“The revised Ballater Path Leaflet highlights some of the best local walks taking in great views fascinating local history and wildlife to boot. You can pick up your copy at the Visitor Information Centre in Station Square.”

The free leaflet is available from Ballater Visitor Information Centre located at Albert Memorial Hall, Station Square.

The leaflet is also available at http://cairngorms.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/160630BallaterPaths.pdf

For more details about discovering the region, visit the Active Cairngorms Facebook page or twitter @CNPActive

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Apr 232015
 

With thanks Esther Green, Tricker PR.

Clarklogo2A North-east firm has been ranked among the top managed service providers for IT in the world, according to a global guide published this month.

For the fourth year in a row, Clark Integrated Technologies (IT) features in the annual MSPmentor 501 Global Edition award listings.

And as well as its place in the MSPmentor 501 list, Clark IT appears on the Top 50 for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for a second time. Only one other Scottish firm has made it onto the EMEA Top 50.

Reflecting on the firm’s achievement, Austen Clark, Managing Director of Clark IT says:

“It is fantastic to be recognised again by MSPmentor, and it is a great achievement for the team to be ranked in the EMEA Top 50 for a second time.

“We are committed to working in partnership with our clients to deliver support and solutions to drive efficiency throughout their business.”

Each year, MSPmentor gathers information for its annual rankings through the participation of managed service providers and IT service providers in their annual survey.

The survey was conducted from December 2014 through January 2015 and rankings are based Penton Technology’s unique criteria for MSPs, such as annual recurring revenues, total revenues and more.

This year the top MSPmentor 501 companies recorded higher recurring revenues than ever before. Combined, the total annual recurring revenues for all of MSPmentor 501 2015 companies was up by 26.5% year over year.

Marcia Parker, Executive Director, Penton Technology Group says:

“We want to congratulate Clark Integrated Technologies and look forward to covering their growth strategies in the year ahead.”

Jessica Davis, Editor in Chief of MSPmentor and Executive Editor at Penton Technology, adds:

“Thank you to all the companies who participated in this year’s MSPmentor 501 survey, and congratulations to the companies that ranked on our lists.”

Clark IT has over 20 years of experience in providing industry leading support and delivering business-class technology. The company’s integrated solutions provide industry leading services, productivity and cost effective IT platforms for business growth.

Clark IT has a client base in both Aberdeen City and Shire, and a recent development has seen the expansion of the company into the Inverness area.

Founded in 1991, Clark Integrated Technologies (Clark IT) is one of Scotland’s leading independent providers of managed ICT solutions to a broad range of corporate and commercial clients across Scotland and beyond.

With a wealth of technological and commercial experience, supported by an established reputation, Clark IT offers clients reliable and honest strategic advice on all aspects of Information and Communications Technology.

For more information, see the firm’s website at www.clark-it.com