IT is an integral part of the day-to-day operations for most businesses today. The smooth operation of integral systems is a target which many organisations struggle to achieve. With the cost of in-house staff ever-increasing, many find employing external contractor a tempting alternative.
||IT Services companies provide two basic models of servicing their customer. The traditional “break-fix” model which is still the most popular form of providing IT services to customers. When the customer experiences a technical issue with their systems they raise a ticket with the support company. The resolution of the issue depends on the nature of the problem and the Service Level Agreement which both sides agree to.
Managed Service Providers supply a more advanced method of looking after their customers. They constantly monitor a customer’s systems looking for issues which are not yet felt by the end users. Their aim is to eliminate potential problem before they begin to affect the operations of the customer. In this scenario the only way for the managed service provider to make money is to maintain the systems in the best possible way using IT best practice.
In addition to the above, they often take care of all the software and hardware purchases required as well as manage customer’s interaction with other suppliers (broadband supplier, phone line supplier, often even electricity supplier) allowing the customer to have truly one point of contact for any issues that may arise.
How can this benefit the small business owner? Managed service providers employ experienced IT support staff who will take the time to understand a customer’s business first. They then offer solutions to the pain points which the customer points out. They are constantly on the looking for ways to make the infrastructure more reliable. By eliminating most avoidable issues as well as preparing for possible failures they will be prepared to react if a serious issue occurs, therefore limiting or eliminating data loss and impact to the customer’s business.
As you can see the fact that Managed Service Providers offer a proactive way of managing the customer’s infrastructure, makes it a far more superior method of IT management, allowing the customer to concentrate on what they do best, in turn making them more competitive and successful.
In tough economic times the ability to analyse your past and present business data and the ability to predict future trends can give you a competitive advantage. Armed with a powerful reporting tool, you have a 360 degree view of your operation. Business Intelligence (BI) tools, therefore, can provide great help with many of your decision-making processes and can go a long way in offering your company a significant competitive advantage.
Crystal Reports from SAP is one of the most popular BI tools available. It has very extensive reporting capabilities on a wide range of data sources.
Accessible data sources include the following:
- Databases such as PostgreSQL, Sybase, IBM DB2, Ingres, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Interbase and Oracle
- Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel
- Text files
- HTML and XML files
- Groupware applications as Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise
- SAP: BW, Info Sets, Tables, and Business Objects Universes
- Any other data source accessible through a web service, ODBC, JDBC or OLAP
In total there are over 40 available data sources.
Once you extract the data required from your data sources you can use the tools provided to sort, group and present it in the way which is easiest for you to understand. Crystal Reports offers you a high degree of flexibility and control over the way you present the data. You have the ability to further increase visual impact by choosing from a wide variety of map and chart types.
You can also add formulas to process available data.
Reports can be displayed in a number of formats including PDF, Excel, XML, HTML, and RTF to name only a few. This allows you to provide recipients with a report in the format they expect.
Crystal Reports is licensed per named user.
To get a feel for the software please visit the below link to download a fully functional 30 day trial:
Crystal Reports trial
Crystal reports is a worthy investment for any business which needs to create and process interactive reports to stay ahead of their competition.
In today’s working environment we have to deal with receiving information from many different sources, in multiple formats, which we are struggling to manage, digest and navigate the information to get to what is relevant. Something as simple as searching for information can waste a lot of time and have a big effect on our own productivity, and in turn can affect performance and job satisfaction.
We decided to conduct some research into this issue of information overload, with the aim of quantifying how much of a problem this is proving for office workers and consequently businesses today. Our survey was conducted by One Poll to office workers across the UK, Sweden and Holland, and asked a series of questions to find out how much information we receive on a daily basis and from which sources. The results of this research have provided some very interesting insights into around how the information that faces us on a daily basis is affecting employee efficiency and ultimately costing businesses.
View our infographic of UK results:
This is a guest blog post by Chris Harman who is an accomplished business leader with over 15 years’ experience in managing Sales and Marketing teams across EMEA and America. In his role as Regional VP NEWS at Mindjet, Chris directs Sales and Business Development across Northern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and is responsible for the operational and strategic management of the region.
Prior to joining Mindjet, Chris held various senior management positions in the technology sector, working for organisations that included Infinium Software, Comshare and Geac Computer Corporation. Amongst these, was his role as Regional VP of US West for Infor (previously Geac), in which he was responsible for managing the Sales teams for the Performance Management and Expense Management product suites across the US West and Canada.
Business continuity plans are often seen as insurance policies - something that organisations don’t really want to pay for, but feel they have to. In the worst cases, some don’t bother at all, thinking “it won’t happen to me.” However, as more and more companies rely on IT to support the everyday running of the business, the need for disaster recovery and business continuity plans continues to grow.
Organisations should not just see business continuity as an insurance policy though. Instead of being a necessary cost that delivers little value, the opportunity is there to re-assess the company’s wider IT infrastructure and think about future plans for IT.
Linking continuity planning into virtualisation provides a means to achieve cost savings through server consolidation: a reduced number of physical servers and the power to run them means less cost to the business, but continuity and DR plans can be added into this solution at the same time. Companies can use their savings here to buy in extra storage and replicate data across to a second back-up server, or use a service provider to host their secondary systems.
Similarly, companies can look at remote working and giving staff access to services over the internet - backing up data and applications across to a second site provides redundancy for disaster events, but this investment can also make staff more flexible in how they work, providing a day-to-day business benefit too.
Not having access to IT systems can cause disruption to the business, which can lead to loss of revenue and have a lasting impact on the company’s reputation. For many companies that hold customer data - banks and other financial institutions, for example - data loss is not an option due to legislation from the Financial Services Authority.
When thinking about business continuity, organisations should consider what amount downtime they can afford without causing too much disruption to the business, as well as the amount of data they are prepared to lose. This is important as it will affect the type of BC solution that is suitable for the business.
Ian Masters – Sales and Marketing Director
Ian is UK Sales Director at Vision Solutions, and has been advising organisations on their requirements for business continuity, disaster recovery and backup for over a decade. He has a wide background in the virtualisation, storage and high availability space, working across multiple platforms. Recently, he has also entered into the world of desktop virtualisation following the launch of Double-Take Flex.
His previous role was UK Sales and Marketing Director at Double-Take Software, who were acquired by Vision Solutions, and prior he worked as UK & Ireland Country Manager with Sunbelt Software, a supplier of Windows management tools and security software. Ian studied at Bangor University, North Wales, and gained a BSC (Hons) in Marine Zoology.
Recently I came across quite an interesting question. A friend of mine asked me what software is. I thought that this was a very valid question, as not many people can produce a definition on the spot. After some short research I came across a brilliant definition on Wikipedia:
Software is a collection of computer programs and related data that provide a computer with instructions on what to do and how to do it.
I think it is a very adequate definition. Not every computer program is software. Software is a collection of programs which coupled with data allows the computer to perform certain tasks.
Ok, so how is the software made? Well this is usually a long process which involves writing loads of lines of code. The code (or the computer program syntax) can be written in a number of computer languages by computer programmers or software developers. They usually use some development tools like IDE (integrated development environment). The most popular IDE on the market is Visual Studio.
Visual Studio allows developers to create computer programs using a number of computer languages. Most popular computer languages used in Visual Studio are C++, C# and VB.NET.
A long time ago developers noticed that they spend most of their time writing the same code over and over again. They then created a theory of object oriented programming. This theory allows developers to create short computer programs called objects which can be reused multiple times in building their future programs.
There are also commercially available components on the market which make writing computer programs quicker and easier. Two of the main publishers of such components are ComponentOne and Telerik.
Once you create your application you will need packaging software which will take care of the installation process. There are two leading software packaging products on the market: InstallShield and Wise Package Studio. These packages will allow you to create an easy installation process for your customers to follow in order to correctly install your applications on their computers.
Good luck with your first project! Let us know how it went.
...continuing the theme of the work/life balance (http://bit.ly/e3nzFJ), it has almost become axiomatic for many workers that zero hours contracts are, if not executed in name, are expected in spirit to some extent. Work/home boundaries blur in a physical sense and time follows suit. Gordon Gekko philosophy lives: lunch is for wimps. Workers feel insecure as jobs become scarce and redundancies escalate; union protection is minimal. On a day when we have been told by the Bank of England that disposable income is at its lowest since the 1920s, many people need to work longer hours to makes ends meet and accept poor terms in an extremely competitive job market.
The amount of work that is not remunerated no doubt makes a significant contribution to the economy of the country and to private profits, if not to the pocket of those executing it. Many people are not averse to volunteering, but they are likely to want to choose a favoured charity or their local community on which to bestow additional time and effort rather than the office where they spent most of their week anyway. The on-demand availability of a workforce can lead to a reactive culture where less and less is planned and organised and uncertainty reigns. Volunteering has also been used as a way of de-skilling some professions. Cheapness becomes more important than quality or consistency and generations of knowledge are eroded.
The free-for-all of such working practices stands in contrast with one of the first organised attempts to harness volunteer labour when subbotniks and voskresniks were instituted by the Bolshevik government in 1919 following the third Russian Revolution (the name deriving from the Russian words for Saturday and Sunday). They involved citizens undertaking community duties such as litter clearing and took place against Russia's desperate struggle for survival in a civil war, following the ravages of the First World War. In later years, they became compulsory but were initially undertaken with genuine enthusiasm by a people trying to build a very new type of society.
Here, governments cannot quite decide whether voluntary work is a punishment, social obligation or a way to keep pesky pensioners off the streets during the day. It was announced in April 2009 (http://bit.ly/g4Xog6) that Gordon Brown wanted to see every teenager in the country complete up to fifty hours of volunteer work by the age of 19. Something to do while they struggle to compete in a shrinking job market I suppose. Four pilot projects were established that were posed to become compulsory before Labour lost the election. David Cameron launched his "big society" drive in Liverpool (http://bit.ly/bIFD1O) to make people feel so "free" and "powerful" that they no longer need public services or at least run their own voluntary schemes for "luxuries" such as libraries, post offices, transport and housing.
Perhaps we should make the workplace somewhere that is well-structured and organised enough to enable people to reclaim the concept of voluntary as something that is willingly given.