Do you have a contingency plan?

Fate has been conspiring against me of late.  From repeated power cuts at home where my business is based, to helping a client move office and being let down on the phone line and broadband transfer.  However, all is not as bad as it seems, because I am a pessimist!  Why should this be cause for celebration amongst all these mishaps?  Well being a pessimist means I have contingency plans in place.

I work virtually which means that most of my work is done online over the internet.  To do this I obviously need electricity, a computer and an internet connection.  Fear not, although the router may have gone down with the power I have a wonderful little gadget called a MiFi.  It’s a portable wireless router and has served me very well since it’s purchase early last year. It can generate a wireless signal for up to five computers, including the iPhone and iPod Touch.  As it doesn’t need to be connected via USB if it is fully charged it makes it a really flexible little gadget.  It also means I don’t have to go running to find my nearest Starbucks or McDonalds in search of a wireless signal.  I’ve found it much quicker than the traditional mobile broadband dongle I used to use.

Why do so many British Companies ignore R & D Tax Credits?

The Government wants to give money back to British Companies that undertake research and development. Unfortunately many Managing Directors and Finance Directors and even their Accountants concentrate on the word ‘research’ and not on the word ‘development’ and so believe that this means that they will not qualify. In many cases this will not be true and so they are missing out on this very useful source of funding. If you are developing a new product or service, or making improvements to existing products and services you may very likely be eligible. Even software companies have been successful.

The scheme is designed to encourage and reward innovation. It allows innovative companies to either recover Corporation Tax paid and or receive a rebate of the NIC/PAYE generated by the business. Most first time claimants are able to also submit a claim for the last two completed year ends.
The average claim in the first year is £40k

What’s behind your website?

A colleague of mine recently asked me for advice on social media strategy which resulted in us exposing some serious flaws in her company’s on-line presence which left me wondering – just what lies behind most websites and how effective are they?

Who’s been tinkering again?

This post is by Karen Wilson

Would you let Jim the office junior attempt to fix electrics if they went bang in the middle of the working day? Would you let Paula on reception mend a broken gas pipe in the office kitchen?

I’m guessing (or rather hoping) the answer is no. So why oh why do companies let Jim and Paula have a little tinker with their IT systems???

We appreciate that in (as we hear so often) “the current climate” companies need to keep tight hold on the purse strings and that every penny needs to be justifiably accountanted for .

Now when Jim has that little tinker with the server because “he’s a whizz on a computer” or decides to download several printer drivers trying to find the right one to network the new printer what he’s actualy doing is potentially causing the company downtime, running the risk of viruses and slowing the hardware down as it fills with unesscesary software

So whilst the company thinks they’ve just saved themselves £150-£200 it may have actually cost them £1000’s in down time and loss of productivity.

Nowadays most businesses cannot function without their IT systems and business can quickly grind to a halt.

It’s really not uncommon for businesses to call an IT company in a blind panic when the systems have gone down and no amount of tinkering can bring them back up. Guess what?? Experienced, qualified IT people don’t generally tinker….what they do and how they work comes from years of experience and hours of studying.

A good solid IT infrastructure can help a business improve productivity and work smarter. If a company is tendering for large contracts (particularly in the public sector) then a good solid, secure infrastructure is an absolute must. As a business there are several options that can be considered to help you keep you and your team keep working seamlessly and efficiently

Websites and Legals…

It is strange how so many small business owners behave very differently online from their everyday working environment.

For example, take websites and their compliance with legal requirements and standards. Most owners of a small business will be reasonably aware of the legal guidelines which they must adhere to in the day to day operation of their business in whatever field they operate. However, once they venture online many businesses have a presence which does not meet legal requirements. Partly this is because the internet is relatively new and regulation is still developing, partly because of a shortage of good advice as to what is required. Unfortunately, although “No-one told me” is not a defence” it is often a reality.

We live in a world which is increasingly regulated, and if you have an online presence you need to be aware that the legal scrutiny of websites is becoming more rigorous, more regulated and at an increasing frequency.

So what should you do?

Amongst The Cloud


CloudsA few years ago my girlfriend bought me a book called The Cloudspotters Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. Mr Pretor-Pinney is passionate about clouds – cumulus, cirrus, cumulonimbus – he loves them all. He encourages the reader to take some time out of their day to just lie back on some soft grass, look up at the clouds and find shapes in them. This kind of lazy afternoon sounds blissful to many and I would certainly fancy a slice of that leisurely pie. My only problem, however, is with the word cloud. It has taken on a whole new meaning for me as of late.


Do I have to buy expensive software?

The short answer is No, the long answer is that it depends. Before you spend hundreds of pounds on new software or upgrades look at how you use your software.

Make a list of all the features that you use or would like to use. Then google some of them. If it is an alternative to Microsoft Office there are several, one that is of note is Open Office. It is a free office package and does the basics.

This means that you can download Open Office and try it, see if it has all the features that you need. Give it a week or two because it is slightly different then Microsoft so you need to give yourself enough time to get used to it. Then see if you can use it to do everything that you need to do. Documents can be saved in Microsoft Office formats (Word, Excel and PowerPoint)

Don’t be a victim of a bad IT install…..

This post is by Karen Wilson

Google Apps for Business – is it right for business?

This post was written by Elliot Zissman

This post consists of  2 parts

The top 13 things to consider – Part 2.


8. Why don’t you Try Before You Buy: although Google Premier is a paid-for service, Google Standard is free.  It comes with lots of advertising but you can use the software and see if it meets your needs.

9. Support – phone and email support is available 24/7 but is it likely to be from a call centre operative, or someone who truly takes the time to understand your business needs? If you think that your business operates in a standard way, with nothing unique about your requirements or those of your team, then this level of support might be right. If not, you should think if this is all you need.

10. Uptime – is 99.9% enough for you?  It sounds a lot, but this means 8 hours per year. When would you like your day without IT?  Spread over a series of 1 hour periods at 2am on a Sunday would be ideal.  But what if it’s the Monday morning you are finalising your accounts for the year? In reality, Google meets its SLA without issue – they reckon 10-15 minutes per month is the outage they experience and that’s normally a second here and two seconds there. But what happens if you do have a complaint? Who can you hold responsible?  I’m not sure having a go at Barry in Google Support will help matters.

Google Apps for Business – is it right for business?

This post is by Elliott Zissmann

This post consists of  2 parts

 The top 13 things to consider – Part 1.

You may have heard of Microsoft Cloud 365, where the software giant is offering hosted versions of its popular Office Suite, as well as Exchange for email and SharePoint for collaboration. From meetings with Microsoft we know they are doing this in direct response to competition from Google with the Google Apps Premier Edition.

But is this a service they should worry about? Is this something businesses should consider?