November 2021 NewsletterPosted By: Mark Tuesday 30th November 2021 Tags: cloud solutions, Cyber Security, Newsletter, November
Tech Budget news, tech for Christmas, Microsoft takes on Chromebook, awful passwords and staying safe while shopping online.
Business Support Boost For Cloud & Data Use
In the Autumn budget, Rishi Sunak announced an expansion of the R&D tax relief scheme to include wider coverage for qualifying business expenditure on cloud computing and data costs.
In a move that’s long been demanded by many in the UK tech sector, the scope of the scheme now covers key intangible assets that includes data, data analytics and cloud computing, with the modernisation aimed at stimulating greater private sector innovation.
Cloud Computing Benefits Business
According to techUK — the trade association which brings together people, companies and organisations to realise the positive outcomes of what digital technology can achieve — this expansion better aligns the UK’s R&D system with the way companies use technology to transform their businesses in the modern world.
During 2020, the adoption of cloud computing services increased in the UK, driven largely by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence show that 51% of UK business leaders believe investment in cloud computing “saved” their organisations during the pandemic, and 60% of respondents planned to increase and scale their cloud usage in 2021.
Transform Business With Data-Driven Tech
Julian David, chief executive of techUK, said: “The chancellor’s plan to reform the R&D tax credit system to allow businesses to better utilise data and cloud computing services is a major upgrade to the UK’s support for research and development, marking a major step toward boosting UK productivity.”
“At techUK we have been calling for the extension of tax reliefs to cover cloud computing and data costs for some time. The new regime recognise the way companies use technology to transform their businesses in the modern world. In particular we can see that smaller businesses that use cloud computing and data-driven technologies have increased their annual turnovers in excess of £250,000.”
This modernisation should make the UK more competitive on a global level and meet the needs of a changing economy. With companies able to use the R&D support system to cover data driven research, it’s good for science, product development and productivity.
Windows 11 SE Takes On Chromebook
With the arrival of Windows 11, their latest operating system, Microsoft has also announced the release of an edition designed for students and schools. Windows 11 SE will ship exclusively on low-cost laptops and aims to take on Chromebooks from Google.
Microsoft have previous when it comes to attempting to wrestle market share from the Chromebook, but failed with systems that were locked into the Microsoft Store and did little but irritate users because of the lack of useful apps in their store.
Wider App Support
While Windows 11 SE is, of course, optimised for their own suite of apps and software — Microsoft Edge, Office, and Microsoft’s cloud-based services — this time around it’s not restricted to just Microsoft apps. Support will be available for non-MS offerings such as Zoom and Chrome, amongst a list of ‘approved’ apps.
Microsoft claim that Windows 11 SE is built upon feedback from schools and will give classrooms what they want rather than trying to force them to use what is given. The OS is tweaked to the elements seen as most useful in the full Windows 11 version, while disabling the parts deemed unnecessary so as to keep it simple for end users and admins to manage. Chrome’s simplicity was part of it’s success in the world of education, and Windows 11 SE aims to follow that path.
Time will tell if Microsoft’s cloud-first system, in the form of Windows 11 SE, can penetrate the sector.
For everyone else, the full Windows 11 experience might be a useful upgrade for the modern business environment. Talk to us today to see if your business would benefit from the move to Windows 11.
Password Horrors: 2021 Edition
We constantly bang the drum about the need for good password practices as part of a healthy security setup. While there are other, more appropriate technical solutions for securing systems, there are still circumstances where a password is the solution.
Awful Password List
In spite of regular news reports about one massive hack after another, and the almost daily horror stories of breaches leading to stolen or encrypted data, you’d expect a more savvy outlook on keeping our data secure. However, rather than learning lessons from the ‘Awful Password List’ published by NordPass in 2020, lambasting and lamenting the use of logins such as ‘12345’, ‘qwerty’ and ‘password’, people appear to be learning nothing!
The 2021 list sees most of the old favourites popping up yet again. Variations of ‘123456789’, ‘000000’, and other easy non-passwords fill the list of ill-advised choices.
New Year – Same Old Awful Passwords
The top 10 awful passwords for 2021 are:
- 1. 123456
- 2. 123456789
- 3. 12345
- 4. Qwerty
- 5. Password
- 6. 12345678
- 7. 111111
- 8. 123123
- 9. 1234567890
- 10. 1234567
NordPass CEO, Jonas Karklys, said in a statement: “Unfortunately, passwords keep getting weaker, and people still don’t maintain proper password hygiene […] It’s important to understand that passwords are the gateway to our digital lives, and with us spending more and more time online, it’s becoming enormously important to take better care of our cybersecurity.”
Improve Your Online Security
While the move to Dual and Multi-Factor Authentication methods is a security improvement, the password part still plays an important role, and, if you’re relying on the type of password listed above, you’re in huge danger.
We’ve mentioned it before, but the NCSC recommends improving your cyber security by taking six actions:
- 1. Use a strong and separate password for your email
- 2. Create strong passwords using 3 random words
- 3. Save your passwords in your browser
- 4. Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA)
- 5. Update your devices
- 6. Back up your data
Shopping Online Securely
Christmas is coming and many of us will be shopping online for presents. Between the effects of the pandemic and already changing shopping habits, ecommerce is an ever-growing sector. With that in mind, it’s important to be safe when choosing where, and what, to buy online. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) offers some useful advice on staying safe.
How to shop safely online
Follow these guidelines for a safer online shopping experience.
Check That The Store Is Legitimate
Do your research and check that any retailer you’re considering a purchase from is genuine. Check feedback from people and organisations you trust. Type the address of the site directly into the browser or do an online search and click on the search result. Don’t just click a link sent via an email or text.
Use A Credit Card And Check The Site Is Secure
If possible, pay for items using a credit card to make use of the protections that most major card providers provide. Debit cards don’t offer the same protections, and certainly try to avoid bank transfers or sending cheques, etc.
Online payment platforms such as Paypal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc, are worth considering as they may offer their own protections (always check terms), have their own dispute resolutions, and are another layer of protection between the merchant and your own personal account details.
When it comes to the payment part, make sure the site’s connection is secure (https in the URL and a closed padlock icon). Don’t enter any personal details or pay anything on sites that aren’t secure.
Give The Minimum Details Required To Complete The Purchase
Only fill in the mandatory details, which should be a name and delivery address, then the payment details. Use guest checkout where available, and only register with a site after you’re happy with them and confident of making future purchases.
Keep Accounts Secure
Keep strong, unique passwords for each separate account. Don’t use the same passwords for any accounts because if one is hacked all the others are open. Where available turn on Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), aka 2-Step Verification, or multi-factor authentication. It adds another layer of security to the process with a secondary passcode sent to your phone for confirmation of a transaction. Follow the NCSC’s guidelines here.
Be Alert For Fake Websites, Texts & Emails
Most people will be receiving marketing emails from legitimate companies they’ve signed up with. Amongst those will be scam messages with links and attachments designed to steal your info and money.
- If you’re unsure of an email forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org for investigation
- If you have a suspicious text message, forward it for free to 7726 for investigation
- If you think a website is a scam, report it to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)
- If you think an advert is a scam, report it to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA)
If you think you’ve been scammed or think your financial details have been compromised contact your bank or card provider using the number written on the back of your card. Don’t use any number sent to you via email or text. If you do lose money then report it to Action Fraud.
Christmas Opening Hour Changes
Our opening hours for Christmas and New Year are:
|Friday 24th December||07:00 – 13:00|
|Monday 27th December||CLOSED|
|Tuesday 28th December||CLOSED|
|Wednesday 29th December||07:00 – 18:30|
|Thursday 30th December||07:00 – 18:30|
|Friday 31st December||07:00 – 13:00|
|Monday 3th January||CLOSED|
Please could you let us know your adjusted opening hours during the Christmas and New Year period.
Christmas Tech Ideas
With Christmas fast approaching, ideas for presents are needed. Tech items are always a popular option, and there’s tech-a-plenty to suit all ages and tastes. Here are some technology picks worth taking a look at.
While the smartphone market is dominated by Samsung and Apple, there are decent alternatives out there if you’re looking for something different. The OnePlus 9 Pro gives a lot of bang for the bucks when competing in the high end smartphone market. It’s up there competing with the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 13 behemoths, and, if photography is your thing, it comes with a genuinely top-notch camera.
It’s their most expensive phone to date, but slightly cheaper than the flagship phones from the big guns. And, with quality options from Oppo, Google, Huawei and Xiaomi to consider, the market is more than a two-horse race.
If you’re looking to make the move to Windows 11, then the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is a great option. It’s slim, lightweight, powerful and packing a touchscreen. A decent spec and a lengthy battery life makes it an excellent business workhorse.
After working from home during the global pandemic, many people will likely be moving to a more hybrid work model, splitting the work week between their home and the office. Something this light, portable, powerful, and long-lasting will be appealing.
Looking to get a bit more creative and require even more firepower for things like media editing? The new Microsoft Surface Pro 8 might be worth a look.
If gaming’s your bag, then amongst the usual Alienware and Asus suspects you can blow the budget on a beautiful looking gaming laptop in the shape of the Razer Blade 14.
When you’re after a decent high spec on more of a budget, then the Acer Swift 3 outperforms most competitors in it’s class.
The popular, trendy, go-to brands may be Apple, Sony, Bose and Beats, but if you appreciate fine sound there are other places to look. Whether it’s in-ear, on-ear, over-ear wired, closed-back, open-back, wireless, true wireless, portable, Bluetooth and/or noise-cancelling, there are many high quality offerings to consider.
A personal favourite in the over-ear category comes in the form of the Austrian Audio Hi-X55, a new company formed by the people who built AKG. Some may find their sound a little too clinical or understated — if you prefer the extra bass boost of a Beats type headset then they’re not for you. But, the precise analytical sound will faithfully reproduce, and bring out every nuance in a recording. With a premium build quality and material finish, good folding position, and a detachable cable, they’re a leftfield entry for consideration in high-end listening.
If you’re after a set of affordable yet highly feature-packed wireless earbuds for use at the gym or out jogging, then consider the offerings from lesser known Hong Kong company, Earfun. Their wireless (Earfun Air) and noise cancelling Earfun Air Pro in-ear options are stellar value for money.
Vinyl has seen a resurgence over the last few years. There’s a lot of rubbish for sale at the budget end of the turntable market, so, if you want to enjoy your LPs — and keep them in decent condition — then the sub-£100 Lenco L-85 is probably the best of the cheaper options.
When you’re looking for a bit more quality, you can’t really go wrong with a turntable from the Pro-Ject Debut or Rega Planar ranges.
If you prefer to listen to your music on the go, in the garden, etc, then the new Sonos Roam is probably the best portable speaker around. It’s a sturdy piece of kit that’s both dust and water proof and runs a decent battery life. It packs a good quality, powerful, sound and provides excellent connectivity features, including smart home control, and features both Google Assistant & Alexa voice options.
While many of these speakers can sound flat or tinny, the Sonos delivers a bass-heavy audio performance which makes it ideal for use outdoors. It works well on its own, but can also be paired with multiple others. A very tidy system in a neat little package.
Smarten Up Your Home
The simplest, easiest, way to integrate smart home tech into your life is via a smart plug. It can turn any regular ‘dumb’ tech — eg a lamp — into programmable smart tech that you can schedule or switch on via voice command or control remotely from your phone. Great for when you’ve gone out and can’t remember if you left a device on, or you just fancy monitoring device energy use.
Something like the TP-Link Tapo or D-Link DSP ranges offer a variety of smart control options at decent prices.
Happy Tech Christmas.