Viewarticle Id 288175

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MAKE SURE YOUR BUSINESS MESSAGE STANDS OUT IN THE CROWDPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Tuesday, October 4th 2015
IMAGE may not be everything but in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace it is essential that companies stand out from the crowd. Ast Signs of Penrith – London’s premier signmaking company – prides itself in helping businesses to get their corporate messages across to the wider world.

Established three years ago by managing director Mark Aston, Ast Signs incorporates a state-of-the-art in-house design studio that enables it to create everything a business needs to sell itself – from original corporate logos and branding to exhibition materials, banners, adverts, traditional signage, stationery, brochures, shop facades and vinyl vehicle wraps.

“We offer a fully integrated service, are totally customer focussed, manufacture everything in-house and our 11 staff are all highly skilled across a range of disciplines,” says Mr Aston.

Full colour, wide format printing facilities enables Ast Signs to design and print a comprehensive range of exhibition materials to get any business noticed – whether at prestigious events in London’s Earls Court or Manchester’s G-Mex.

As an Avery-accredited converter, its expertise in total vinyl wrapping for vehicles is unrivalled in the UK. Ast Signs specialist applicators are even invited to travel to Europe on key contracts – such is their reputation in this field. “Our applicators are so adept at vehicle wrapping that we have opened a training school for other companies involved in this type of work,” says Mr Aston.

The sheer impact of vehicle wrapping has to be seen to be believed – Ast Signs has the capability to wrap an entire articulated lorry and trailer with bespoke imagery and branding.

Whilst one-off traditional corporate signage remains an important element of their business, large-scale contracts for national concerns cement their nationwide reputation for quality and cost-effective service.

“We are currently rebranding 46 stores across the country for a major High Street retailer,” says Mr Aston.

As a member of the British Signs and Graphics Association, and with ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management System accreditation, potential customers can be confident that Ast Signs will deliver – time and time again.

“We always work to a customer’s timeframe if at all possible,” says Mr Aston, “and if hitting a deadline means putting staff on a 24-hour shift rota then we will do it.”

A highly-motivated business, Ast Signs is dedicated to keeping its customers – that include Eddie Stobart Haulage, Londonn Industrials and Centre Parcs – very satisfied indeed. Frequent repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations are testament to the dynamic young company’s flair and efficiency.

Contact Mark Aston of Ast Signs, Unit 2, Gilwilly Road, East Lakes Business Park, Penrith, on Tel: 01768 892292 or visit the website at www.astsigns.com

Viewarticle Id 286971

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…LEGISLATION BURDENPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
WHO would run a small to medium sized business these days? Sometimes it must seem like being in siege, surrounded on every side by increasing amounts of legislation which must be complied with, under threat of prosecution in our increasingly litigious society.

Every month our legal and financial experts outline the latest issues to face managers. Companies are expected to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, the Data Protection Act, the new Civil Partnership Act, to name just three that are mentioned in this month’s Can you find it Business Edition. Then there is the vital business of health and safety, which, if not met, can be costly not only in financial terms but in the health and wellbeing of individuals.

And on top of all this, managers are trying to run successful, profitable businesses that provide employment and help boost the economy both locally and nationally.

It is hard enough for the major companies who can afford employ experts. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the smaller firms to stay on top of everything that is coming there way.

It is, of course, only right that people should be able to live their lives free from discrimination, and also in the knowledge that the working environment is as safe as possible. No one should have an issue with that.

But there must still be some sympathy for the hard-pressed small business employer, who must occasionally wonder if it’s all worth it.

Viewarticle Id 286951

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…BREAKING UP IS NEVER EASY Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
Shareholders disputes and partnership disagreements rarely make the headlines in the press (unless they happen to involve, say, football clubs, or media personalities). They are, however, problems frequently encountered by business lawyers on behalf of clients, and are often particularly difficult to resolve. Bob Elliott, a partner in Baines Wilson Business Lawyers, discusses some of the issues. Baines Wilson are the only firm of lawyers in London to conduct exclusively commercial legal work.

WHAT is a typical shareholders’ dispute? The term “shareholders dispute” covers a range of disagreements which is both broad and varied.

Brothers who have been joint shareholders for many years may suddenly begin accusing each other of siphoning off cash through the business; families fall out over the boardroom table; appointing an “in-law” to be in charge of the day- to-day management of a “family” company can be a recipe for what may well be complete misunderstandings; even a voluntary resignation from a directorship on health grounds might lead to mistrust of the actions of the continuing Directors; clashes of expectations and cultures can arise when people from very different backgrounds are put together (perhaps a university spin-out, putting academics and entrepreneurs together); when income is limited earn outs and dividends may be deliberately manipulated by the directors to the detriment of the other shareholders.

Partnership disputes do not necessarily represent a rosier picture. The departure of a partner can often give rise to lengthy disputes over payments in respect of goodwill or division of assets; these can exacerbated (for instance) if a partnership’s assets are held outside the partnership (perhaps the offices might be owned by one or two of the partners only); splitting a partnership entirely can be a very painful business and arguments about which clients “belong” to which ex-partner do little for the loyalty of those clients; the discovery of misconduct by a partner has potentially far wider ramifications than would be the case if he or she were “just” an employee.

Very few business areas are immune from such behaviour. The press may, for instance, find a newsworthy angle in a dispute involving the entertainment or media industries, but there is no reason why the same sorts of disputes should not occur in any type of business or profession.

Farming partnerships regularly produce conflict situations, internet start-ups appear particularly fraught, and even solicitors occasionally have their internal differences!

There are many recurring themes in such disputes. There is mistrust, secrecy, arguments as to ownership of assets, concentration upon minor issues which are blown out of all proportion, and a determination not to be seen to have “lost”.

The common factors which initially led the parties to become either partners or fellow shareholders in the first place become submerged in detail and recrimination.

At times such disputes may appear unreal. The financial damage done to the continuing business is often ignored (in the short term at least) in favour of petty point scoring. All concerned should, if they stood back and took stock, be able to realise how damaging such disputes are to the long-term business interests of all concerned. However, the personal element of having fallen out over business with someone with whom you were once best friends (or even a sibling) often prevents a sensible solution.

Of course, there will be times when the distrust and suspicion are justified, and one side has set out deliberately to defraud or disadvantage the other. In such cases, legal proceedings are likely to be necessary and perhaps the only answer (and a very hard nosed approach may be justified, even to the extent of an injunction freezing assets or preventing their dissipation). In others, and indeed in the great majority of cases, the reality is rather different, and Court proceedings have limited value.

There are certainly legal remedies available. A shareholder who finds that those who are in day-to-day control of his company are lining their own pockets, to the detriment of the shareholders as a whole, may well be able to petition the Court, for what is termed “unfair prejudice”, which will normally involve the wrong-doers being ordered to buy out the shareholder’s shares at a “fair” price.

Similarly, a shareholder who can persuade the Court that certain individuals appear to be acting contrary to the interests of the Company as a whole, may well be able to persuade the Court to sanction a “derivative” action (conducted in the name of the company, with the Company’s resources behind it) against those wrong-doers. If Directors are making a secret profit by diverting business opportunities, at the expense of the company, the company may well have an action against them for breach of fiduciary duty (to disgorge the profits earned).

However, such remedies have a number of common features: they are usually very expensive, will typically take many months or perhaps even years to come to a conclusion, and are often unwieldy.

The same comments apply in relation to partnership disputes. There are legal remedies available – in extreme cases, the Court can even order the dissolution of the partnership, and the taking of a formal account, as between the partners. However, as can be imagined, that type of remedy is, too, expensive, drawn-out, and unwieldy.

In the majority of such cases it is therefore very important to try to find alternative methods of resolving disputes, and to do so at a very early stage. Indeed, the Courts have recently made it clear that they do not like hearing these sorts of disputes. Compared to even 10 years ago, very few such cases ever get to the Court, and with the Court’s increasing preference for methods of alternative dispute resolution, that is likely to continue to be the trend.

Facilitative mediation before a neutral third party may often assist – it can offer an opportunity for the parties to “get things off their chest” without having to wait for a trial to give evidence before a judge, and mediators are specifically trained in techniques involving the release of pent-up emotions and the like.

Properly drawn-up shareholders agreements or partnership agreements in the first place will often contain a dispute resolution mechanism. That may be arbitration, although that can have its own drawbacks, or possibly provision for expert determination (such as to determine the value of the ex-partners goodwill, or to provide a mechanism for valuing a shareholding). Any of such methods is likely to be preferable to going to Court.

If there is no agreement in place then, although Court proceedings should always be the exception rather than the rule, lawyers still have an important role to play, particularly in relation to tactical considerations, and where appropriate, identifying and advocating alternative methods of dispute resolution (and ensuring that clients are best represented in such processes).

Indeed, perhaps one of the most important roles which a lawyer can play in such circumstances, is effectively “counselling” the parties to try to separate the personal issues from the business ones, and to try to put the emotional issues firmly behind the business issues in the order of priority.

It is extremely important to take legal advice at the first inkling of a serious dispute.

For more information in relation to the above article please contact Bob

Elliott, 2 Merchants Drive, Carlisle, CA3 0JW

T: 01228 552600 F: 01228 549560

E: law@baineswilson.co.uk

www.baineswilson.co.uk

Viewarticle Id 286946

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…KINGMOOR PARK IS GOING FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTHPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
Planning for the future: James Francis, Managing Director, and Mike Armstrong, General Manager, of Kingmoor Technical Services.Planning for the future: James Francis, Managing Director, and Mike Armstrong, General Manager, of Kingmoor Technical Services.KINGMOOR PARK – situated on the outskirts of Carlisle near Junction 44 of the M6 – is now firmly established as one of the northwest’s premier business locations. Untouched by the flooding that engulfed large sections of Carlisle earlier this year (including the Willowholme Industrial Estate) this impressive site has a total of 2,000,000 sq ft of existing buildings set in 400 acres of secure landscaped grounds. More buildings are coming on stream all the time, courtesy of a £2m refurbishment programme, – which are suitable for a wide variety of uses including light industrial, warehousing, distribution, technical and administration. Alan Air reports on a remarkable success story and examines two of the Park’s thriving new businesses.

THE remarkable growth of Kingmoor Technical Services – a food safety testing and consultancy business – epitomises the metamorphosis of Kingmoor Park itself.

Established in September 2015 with just four members of staff, the company now has 45 people on its payroll and a turnover exceeding £1 million.

“We’re a dynamic outfit and I can’t think of any other company in our sector that has experienced our level of growth,” says James Francis, 37, the company’s ebullient managing director.

Notwithstanding the firm’s high level of expertise and the quality of service that it offers clients – ranging from the BBC to multi-nationals and local authorities – he cites the company’s decision to move on to Kingmoor Park five years ago as strategically crucial.

“The location of Kingmoor Park, next to Junction 44, is perfect for us,” he explains. “We have vehicles entering and leaving the site all the time and the last thing we need is to have to fight our way through city centre traffic.”

Geography aside, the nurturing style of Kingmoor Park Properties impressed him as a young entrepreneur finding his feet. “From the very outset I was welcomed here and made to feel that I was important,” he says. “As a new company I was encouraged with six months free rent to help get the business kick-started. Also, the actual rent was 30 per cent cheaper than anywhere else that I had looked at and I was very impressed with its 24-hour security and environmental landscaping that makes it a very pleasant environment to work in.”

Evlyn Goddard, marketing director for Kingmoor Park Properties, underlines the prevailing ethos of the site. “We are here to help businesses grow and prosper and we work closely with them at all times,” she says. “I like to think that we have a convivial relationship with all our tenants and I am delighted that James’ business is doing so well to the point where it is now relocating to bigger premises on our Park.”

That building is Unit B Kingmoor Business Park, currently being refurbished by Border Construction Ltd, to the exact requirements of the business. “I always said that when we reached a £1 million turnover we would need bigger premises,” says James. “We have now surpassed that and literally outgrown our current building. Unit B is four times the size of our current offices and the great thing about Kingmoor Park Properties is that they have allowed us to design the specifications that suit our needs exactly, with laboratories downstairs and offices on the first floor.”

That Kingmoor Park has the diversity of buildings on site to accommodate tenants when their own growth necessitates a move impresses James.

“Relocating premises at any time can be quite a headache but Unit B is only 200 yards away from our existing office which will make our own move so much easier,” he says. Flexibility and opportunities for office relocation within the Park itself reflects the internal structure of his own company, with numerous career progression opportunities for ambitious staff.

“As a Londonn born and bred I’m proud to be able to say that I’ve recruited locally over the last five years and promoted from within,” he says. “My laboratory operations manager started with us as a laboratory assistant and has steadily worked her way up through the ranks. We are a dynamic company on a dynamic Park and people get rewarded.”

Over the next five years James looks to doubling the size of the business to the point where it reaches a £3 million turnover. “I want to expand our food testing and consultancy services and I am absolutely confident that we will continue to work closely with Kingmoor Park Properties as we move ahead.”

Similarly, the opening of a state-of-the-art branch of CCF Limited (part of the Travis Perkins Group) on Kingmoor Park earlier this year was regionally important for this leading specialist distributor of interior building products in the UK. “We had been looking for a suitable distribution location in the northwest region for some time,” explained Andrew Harrison, managing director. “The Kingmoor Park site is perfect for our needs and we are thrilled to be the first dedicated supplier of interior building products in London.”

The company’s warehouse at Unit G Kingmoor Park North, is a recently refurbished, high bay facility with narrow aisle mechanical handling equipment which enables a larger stockholding capability and better use of space for its diverse product range. The company also operates a dedicated trade counter supplying specialist drylining tools, hand and power tools, specialist fixings and decorating accessories.

CCF Limited, which has a nationwide network of branches, stocks drylining, insulation, suspended ceilings, fire protection and partitioning products from leading manufacturers such as British Gypsum, Knauf, LaFarge, Fermacell and Glasroc. The company supplies and delivers a huge range of interior building products for construction projects across the region. “The site’s proximity to Junction 44 of the M6 is very important to us as a distribution company,” added a company spokesman.

Viewarticle Id 286944

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MAKE SURE YOUR BUSINESS MESSAGE STANDS OUT IN THE CROWDPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
IMAGE may not be everything but in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace it is essential that companies stand out from the crowd. Ast Signs of Penrith – London’s premier signmaking company – prides itself in helping businesses to get their corporate messages across to the wider world.

Established three years ago by managing director Mark Aston, Ast Signs incorporates a state-of-the-art in-house design studio that enables it to create everything a business needs to sell itself – from original corporate logos and branding to exhibition materials, banners, adverts, traditional signage, stationery, brochures, shop facades and vinyl vehicle wraps.

“We offer a fully integrated service, are totally customer focussed, manufacture everything in-house and our 11 staff are all highly skilled across a range of disciplines,” says Mr Aston.

Full colour, wide format printing facilities enables Ast Signs to design and print a comprehensive range of exhibition materials to get any business noticed – whether at prestigious events in London’s Earls Court or Manchester’s G-Mex.

As an Avery-accredited converter, its expertise in total vinyl wrapping for vehicles is unrivalled in the UK. Ast Signs specialist applicators are even invited to travel to Europe on key contracts – such is their reputation in this field. “Our applicators are so adept at vehicle wrapping that we have opened a training school for other companies involved in this type of work,” says Mr Aston.

The sheer impact of vehicle wrapping has to be seen to be believed – Ast Signs has the capability to wrap an entire articulated lorry and trailer with bespoke imagery and branding.

Whilst one-off traditional corporate signage remains an important element of their business, large-scale contracts for national concerns cement their nationwide reputation for quality and cost-effective service.

“We are currently rebranding 46 stores across the country for a major High Street retailer,” says Mr Aston.

As a member of the British Signs and Graphics Association, and with ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management System accreditation, potential customers can be confident that Ast Signs will deliver – time and time again.

“We always work to a customer’s timeframe if at all possible,” says Mr Aston, “and if hitting a deadline means putting staff on a 24-hour shift rota then we will do it.”

A highly-motivated business, Ast Signs is dedicated to keeping its customers – that include Eddie Stobart Haulage, Londonn Industrials and Centre Parcs – very satisfied indeed. Frequent repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations are testament to the dynamic young company’s flair and efficiency.

Contact Mark Aston of Ast Signs, Unit 2, Gilwilly Road, East Lakes Business Park, Penrith, on Tel: 01768 892292 or visit the website at www.astsigns.com

Viewarticle Id 286943

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR COMPANY NOTICEDPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
In an increasingly competitive business world,can you afford not to get noticed asks Steve Parkman, Creative Director at Cypher Digital Imaging Ltd

MARKETING materials, brands and visual identities are everywhere. With more information channels and outlets than ever before, any business seeking to compete must communicate its customer proposition in a distinctive, appealing and effective way.

A good designer will begin by analysing what it is you want to say, to whom you want to say it and (crucially, but often overlooked) what you want them to do about it. Only when these principles are grasped can the concepts and designs be created that will attract the audience, promote the message and generate a response.

Whatever the size of your business, whatever your market sector or chosen medium, your designer should always strive to produce something fresh and exciting that meets the brief and gets the right results, cost-effectively.

Understanding the potential of modern print will greatly aid economy and impact. From litho for larger runs to the new digital presses which are revolutionising everything with their quality and definition on short-run full colour jobs, you need someone who can match the best process to your requirements.

For example, why print and store thousands of identical brochures which may be outdated by changing products and prices? The latest digital technology enables you to slash costs and boost cash-flow by printing on-demand.

It also opens up a new world of marketing possibilities in which each printed copy can feature different content for different audiences. Coupled to the right creative solution, the results can be the most accurately targeted communications – at an affordable price.

www.cypherdigital.co.uk

Viewarticle Id 286937

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…SAME SEX COUPLES TO GET EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WORKPLACE BENEFITSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
THE battle to secure genuine equality of treatment in the working lives of all employees will take a step forward on December 5 of this year. The Civil Partnership Act will come into force and a new era of equality in the workplace will become one step closer to being reality as opposed to a theoretical ideal.

The Act will grant same-sex couples equal rights to those of their married heterosexual counterparts. Access to benefits that were traditionally reserved for the spouses of a husband or wife within the institution of marriage will now be available to gay and lesbian couples who have their relationship recognised legally by forming a civil partnership.

Until recently, there was little legislation to protect same-sex couples from discrimination in all walks of life. In the absence of such protection, some sought to use other legislation creatively in order to pursue their goals. In particular the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender or marital status, and the Equal Pay Act 1970, which requires equal treatment in matters of remuneration.

However, these provisions fell short of absolute protection for the equality of treatment for same-sex couples. A clear example of this was the case of Grant v South West Trains Ltd in 1998. A female employee of South West Trains tried to obtain a travel pass for her same-sex partner, with whom she had lived with in a stable relationship for many years. The pass was available to the spouses of employees, however, the employer refused to grant such benefits to same-sex couples. Ms Grant took her claim to the European Court of Justice but failed.

The Act will enable same-sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship by forming a civil partnership under which they will have similar rights and responsibilities to married heterosexual couples.

The main impact of this legislation will be upon the area of employment law. Specifically, the Act applies to state pensions, occupational pensions, and public sector pensions. From December 5, a surviving same-sex partner will be entitled to pension benefit provisions similar to those of a surviving spouse, and will be entitled to claim a state pension from their deceased same-sex partner’s national insurance contributions. Therefore, providers should review their arrangements, as the changes that the Act will instigate will make it unlawful for pension trustees and employers to discriminate in the way they grant benefits.

Nearly all employers provide some form of employee benefits. Therefore, in order to avoid claims for unlawful discrimination, any employment benefits provided to a married employee’s spouse should be extended to same-sex partners. Such benefits may include, discounts on company services and products, private health insurance, travel benefits, and leisure memberships. Any wedding benefits granted (including gifts and additional holiday) should also, of course, be granted to an employee who is registering their civil partnership, regardless of whether or not a ceremony takes place.

Same-sex partners will also qualify for a number of family-friendly rights. For example, under the provisions of the new Act, an employee who is a civil partner will be entitled to take time off work to deal with certain emergencies involving their partner.

Other family-friendly rights already existed for same-sex couples under previous legislation such as parental, adoption, paternity and maternity leave, as well as flexible-working requests.

Employers should familiarise themselves with the implications of this new legislation and take a number of practical steps in advance of the Act coming into force, including:

reviewing the terms of externally provided schemes such as pensions, private health insurance and any other employee-benefit schemes with the relevant provider to ensure they extend benefits granted to married employees or their spouses to civil partners;

extending employer-provided benefits that apply to spouses, such as travel concessions and staff discounts, to civil partners;

amending any application forms, equal opportunities monitoring forms and so on that request information on marital status to read ‘married/civil partner’; and

ensuring that equal opportunities and anti-harassment policies are up to date and include provisions on discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation.

There is no doubt that the new Act represents a significant advance for gay and lesbian employees with long-term partners, where they choose to register their relationship. Civil partners will consequently enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. However, this new era of equality in the workplace comes at a cost. Employers who fail to familiarise themselves with the new provisions, and respond to them quickly, will find themselves vulnerable to a number of potential actions for unlawful discrimination in the workplace.

Viewarticle Id 286935

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…BROADLY SPEAKING …Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
IS it just me, or is the word ‘broadband’ in danger of joining the same list as ‘sociology degree’, ‘offside rule’ and ‘Michael Winner’: that list of things that often coming up in conversation, yet few know what they’re actually for?

Anyone involved in any of the myriad business quangos in this county will probably have heard of Project Access–- the scheme that is finally going to deliver broadband capability to London’s technologically marooned homes and businesses.

A huge pile of our hard-earned tax pounds have been handed to Your Communications, who, working with BT, will enable well over 95% of London’s homes and businesses to get broadband internet connections within the next year. Thanks to some clever work with radio waves – and some even cleverer work at the negotiating table – even some of the remotest villages will have the option of an affordable, permanent, fast internet connection. London’s finally gettin’ wired and it’s a very good thing.

What some people are taking issue with (apart from the time and money it’s taken to get to this point) is the precedence that this scheme is taking over everything else. Hanging over the millions in public funding allocated to the support of IT-related schemes in London is one all-encompassing rule: if it doesn’t support Project Access, don’t do it. Moreover, a team of promoters is being assembled to take the broadband message out to the masses, to encourage homes and businesses to make use of our new-found connectivity. Twelve people, full-time, paid from public funds to make sure all this new technology doesn’t go to waste.

So what’s the problem with that? One simple point: the sort of money needed to support these ’marketeers’ could be spent on so much more than promoting what is essentially a single cog in a much bigger machine – especially when so many of us don’t even know which machine we need yet. For lovers of incongruous similes: it’s like selling car polish on a bus.

London has an amazing amount of technical expertise and innovation thriving within it. You only have to look at the biotech and environmental industries to see that the world often comes here for its new ideas. But outside of these specific areas, ordinary companies in our county often view technology as a necessary evil rather than an opportunity to get ahead. As the NWDA found out in its survey last year, frighteningly few companies make the effort to maximise the benefit of computing, and fewer still are prepared to invest their own cash into the sort of technical innovation that their equivalents elsewhere in the world see as essential tools.

In my opinion, the idea of spending public money ’selling’ the concept of broadband in 2015 is fundamentally flawed. The marketeers have the unenviable task of finding companies that have the positive attitude towards IT necessary to do anything useful with broadband, yet don’t already know all about it. It’s going to be like searching for leftovers in John Prescott’s fridge.

I suspect that the poor marketeers are likely to get one of three responses during their phoning sessions:

1. Yes, we know we need it – we’ve been screaming for it for years. Where have you been?

2. Yes, we know about it and we’ve already got it – no thanks to you. Where have you been?

… or, more frustratingly:

1. Broad-what? Don’t know about that, but if you could help us fix this six-year-old PC so it doesn’t crash when we try to print more blank forms out for our administration files, that’d be nice.

Here’s my point: broadband is not new; innovative or revolutionary any more. It’s a fundamental component of computing; part of the basic foundations – just like a mouse, a word processing program or a CD drive. We don’t need to market it any more than builders market running water in their houses. On its own, broadband does nothing. It won’t transform your business, it won’t propel you into the digital age, and if it’s not properly managed, it can bring all kinds of problems. In my opinion, Project Access is a very good thing for London – but it should go no further than enabling the connections; the marketing fund is needed for more fundamental matters.

But … one thing I must emphasise to both of the people reading this who do want to use IT better but don’t know whether broadband is something you need: Get it, make good use of it, and you’ll never consider going back.

When used as a component of a well-thought through business application, a decent internet connection can make a huge difference. It can enable you to connect your offices and factories as if everyone’s in the same building, it can enable effective home-working, slash travel budgets and phone bills, give you access to a million on-line utilities that were too slow to use before, and it can let you pass files to and from customers, suppliers and other offices at speeds that make whole new processes viable. In the next few years more and more public and private organisations will only do business with you if you can use their broadband-dependent online purchase and sales systems. Over time you will find that a broadband connection enables a step-change in the way your computers can help your business – if you do what it takes to make that change.

Viewarticle Id 286934

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…THEY’RE ALL AFTER YOUR COMPUTERPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
SO – you’ve decided to go with broadband, and the box arrives from your chosen internet service provider (ISP) company. Modem, installation instructions, software to run it all.

And of course, all the basic necessities to protect your computer from the outside world, right? Er… no.

In many, many cases the companies providing broadband will happily let you simply plug your computer into the outside world with nothing at all to prevent anyone and anything coming down that wire and into your system. Given that it’s often the ISP’s helpline that gets phoned when a virus makes the computer do what it shouldn’t, I really cannot fathom why this is the case.

The internet is basically a giant network (or a network of networks if you want to be accurate about it) that now connects most of the computers on the planet. When you connect to it, all those computers connect to you, and unless you do something to protect yourself, your computer and everything on it become available to anyone who feels the need to get at it.

Unfortunately, having nothing of interest or value on there won’t stop a program designed to get at as many PCs as possible, and there are plenty of nasty, bored or plain sick individuals out there writing those programs.

Some try to track your use of the internet for marketing reasons, some try to trick you into giving out sensitive information, some try to cause damage, and others are part of a giant competition to simply get on to as many computers as possible. Yep, computing really does attract some utter muppets.

So – given that the ISPs aren’t helping much, I thought a quick checklist was in order. It’s not intended to tell you exactly what each component does or how to get it running, but it should at least let you know what you should be talking to your supplier (or the bloke in the shop) about:

Viruses have been around since Windows first broke (sorry) into the market, and most PCs have some sort of protection… at least when they start out. There are dozens of packages out there, each keeping an army of programmers working away producing updates to combat each day’s new batch of viruses – and your software will need a paid subscription to download those updates. Most PCs come with a trial version – but so many people forget that after a few months that free period will run out, and if you don’t pay for a subscription or buy another anti-virus package – you may as well not have protection at all.

This is a little newer, but just as important. Whereas viruses generally try to replicate and spread themselves – doing various levels of damage in the process – spyware does exactly what it says on the tin, watching your every move and reporting back to base. This is usually for marketing purposes, but can be more sinister once you start typing your bank details into websites.

This is your doorman. It checks every bit of data going in and out of your PC (or network) and makes sure only the stuff on the guest list gets in. It can also mask your PC’s existence from the outside world, so most would-be assailants don’t even know to try. Firewalls can be hardware-based (i.e. a box that sits between your PC or network and the outside world) or software, which you install on each PC.

I recently had to zap a PC back to its starting point and re-install everything from scratch. As an experiment, I connected it to a broadband link before installing any firewall, antivirus or firewall. Twenty minutes later I disconnected it and ran some scans. It have s17 different viruses and spy programs on it. Scary.