Jamie Claret on Channel 4 News discussing Windows 7

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A guest post about bananas

I have been doing some mingling lately. A recent mingle led me to meet the bizarre but faintly entertaining Katie Millman, wife of James Millman.

Usually we meet at approximately 8am every other Tuesday at one of the networking events that go to.

All very jolly and fun.

The guest blog was all about eating bananas and how to be nice enjoy(click the bicep to read it)

or click this if the thought of clicking on a half man, half Katie Millman repels you.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Guest Blog on www.legalfutures.co.uk

My good friend and collegue Neil Rose, Owner of the Legal Futures web site, has posted my guest blog about the Adoption of Windows 7 within the coorporate and SME sphere. You can visit them here:

If you die hard Windows XP and Vista(pah pah) users have been resisting the switch to Windows 7, I have written about why now is good time to upgrade. Thanks Neil :)

Neil Rose is also the Editor for the Institute of Legal Executives(ILEX) a publication for legal Executives that I also write for. Take a look if you are interested:

Monday, 19 April 2010

What are your support company ACTUALLY doing for you?

I had a meeting today with an account manager of a large IT Support company. We were discussing the good things and bad things that her employer did and how good or badly they support their clients.

One matter which got raised was to do with backup monitoring and how badly her existing employers did this. I was shocked but not at all surprised. Many companies offer a full range of what are termed as 'managed services'. A Managed Service is a concept where the provider takes over the control of the monitoring of your IT systems and fixes the problems before you even know about it.

This is great and a worthwhile service to have, we offer it ourselves. The problem arises when the company providing the service have a 'set and forget' attitude to the monitoring. There are lots of areas I could talk about here but the most important one, and the one that often gets overlooked is the backups.

The backup, which is never appreciated or taken seriously unless something goes wrong, is THE most critical element of your system. It is only when something goes horribly wrong and there is NO backup that it seems to focus the mind!

many managed service providers claim to be monitoring your backup, but to what extent? and more importantly , how do you KNOW they are?

Many companies still use tape backups but I cannot tell you how many I have walked into and they could not tell me the last time someone tried to extract some data from the tape, its scary!

At The PC Surgery we have a daily backup routine which is checked against all of our clients every single day. If we do not receive a successful notification or if there is an error we have an internal SLA(Service Level Agreement) to ensure that the problem is resolved AND tested. Yes this is time consuming and yes this is a cost to us BUT if we get the phone call that all support companies hate - "Hello, our server is dead" we can relax knowing that the backups were completed and successful.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

5 Tips for when your IT Support provider goes AWOL(or gets put into Administration, like Adventi)

5 Tips for when your IT Support provider goes AWOL(or gets put into Administration)

What would you do if your IT Support provider went missing in action? This is a question faced by many professional practises that were supported by Adventi, one of the UK’s fastest growing IT Consultants. Inside information suggests that clients of the firm have less than two weeks worth of support available to them due to a winding order being placed on them by HMRC. This is and should be of grave concern to practices that’s IT infrastructure and support is reliant on them.

Clients of Adventi are currently seeing the following page when trying to contact them for support through their web site:

Not much help if your email has gone down.

Alternatively, at the smaller end of the scale, your IT Support Company (a middle aged man with a screwdriver and a smart car) may currently be stranded in Marbella, grounded by Volcanic ash being spewed out by an Icelandic volcano.

It goes without saying that nowadays a professional firm, like any business, is incredibly reliant on technology and cannot afford to be in a situation where they have no one to support them. Some things, like an administration are virtually impossible to predict and any amount of Risk Assessment by your supplier would not help as the very structure which is being risk assessed has collapsed. It could definitely be argued however that an internal risk assessment of the company supporting your main services should be part of your overall contingency plan. Companies often look at the systems when conducting such a risk assessment but rarely at the suppliers themselves.

If your main IT Support does disappear it can be a very real concern especially as most firms now have some form of centralised email or practise management system. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the following tips are worth considering when taking on a new supplier or when looking to move from your existing one (who is stranded in Marbella or in discussions with HMRC)

1: Check your contract

Support contracts and Terms and Conditions are often glossed over in the world of IT. Go through them thoroughly and check what happens if key people are unavailable or if SLA’s are breached. It is also key to understand what happens if the company is bought out and if you have an option to move to a new supplier.

2: How resilient are your suppliers?

Ask them about their risk assessment, their contingency plans. If they are a small firm find out what happens if the ‘main’ techy gets stranded by a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

3: Do they have your best interests at heart?

Many IT firms are grown quickly to generate a quick return for the investors when they sell out. Do you want to be just a contract worth £XXX in resale? Big is not always best and a smaller firm with an established history will value you more, be more flexible and will be far more keen to nature you as a client. You will also be more likely to have regular direct contact with the owner and not just your account manager, who is ultimately, expendable.

4: Are they a viable business?

This may not seem obvious but it is not a bad idea to ask the business owner about the plans for the business, is it profitable, how long have they been trading for. If they are cagey then investigate further or steer clear.

5: Have a contingency plan in place

You have one for your server blowing up (if not you should!) so why not have one for your IT Supplier going into administration. Never be afraid to speak to other suppliers in the background even if you are happy with your current one. You never know what’s around the corner.
It goes without saying that as the owner of The PC Surgery I would be more than happy to discuss any concerns you may have if you have been affected by this story..0845 201 1456

Friday, 16 April 2010

I just had to wear make-up for the second time in my life

For only the second time in my life I was forced to wear some foundation. The reason for this was because I was filming my first ever online video and apparently I am a little shiny - I could have told them that.

I wont tell you about the other time unless you know me very well.

Any way, I digress, this was the first meaningful time that I had to do a video recording that was direct to camera and not as part of a speech at a wedding. I was absolutely shocked at how much harder this is than it appears.

I have no problem at all in talking, in fact it is the thing I enjoy most about my job, talking to people, but trying to talk to an imaginary person in the middle of a wide angle lens is something quite different. Earlier in the day I had prepared my 'script' and had even done a practise audio recording. It was all very concise and fluid and I thought the recording would be a doddle.

I wanted to get across who I was(Jamie Claret - in case you were unsure) and to tell everyone a little about my business - The PC Surgery

How wrong was I!

The first problem, after the make up, was the fact that I had to try and remember what I wrote down. This is actually very tricky and confirmed that I will not pursue a career in EastEnders. Once I had got over that, the problem was trying to sound as natural as possible whilst not looking at notes or at the other person in the room. Instead I was talking into the deep void of a lens.

It was OK once I got used to it but the outtakes will be far more amusing than the edited version. I didn't realise how much I swore when things went wrong!

Time will tell how the edit comes out but It will be posted here, fresh from the cutting room floor and I would be interested in any feedback. In the meantime I am off to learn this new skill which I thought I had, but evidently I didn't!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Good staff vs. great staff

Yesterday was a better than average day in the office and I would say this is all down to my staff, who are fantastic.

One reads a lot about how the most successful companies always hire the best people, and to some extent, regardless of cost. Once upon a time I did not have this view, as a young busines I thought it was best to shave costs as much as possible, including wages. Whilst there is a time and place for this I have learnt that in order to grow one must get the best one can afford.

We have recently been through the process of hiring an additional technician for the team and after three months of looking, combined with a relatively quiet month, decided to put hiring on hold for a few months.

Of course you know what happens next, its the last interview we have, and the candidate is fantastic. I had written off the budget by this point and so now had to really justify the expense. However when a candidate has that certain 'x' factor you realise that you would be stupid not to.

And it's that 'x' factor which has become so important to the business. Whilst we may be one of thousands of IT companies around the country, I would argue that I have one of the best teams around. My staff are more than capable technically but beyond that they possess a genuine warmth and sense of care to our clients and each other.

These are exciting times and I am pleased I have such a great team to grow the business even further

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Choosing a supplier should not be complicated...

We are currently looking at working with business partners in order to extend our range of products as well as giving out clients more options when using The PC Surgery as their IT Support company.

What has shocked me is how varied the quality of service is with different suppliers, and that's before we have even spent any money yet!

One backup provider who shall remain nameless but I would point out that they Backup Direct *ahem*, has been appalling. Three times I have tried to speak to someone who can run through ther product range, pricing and reseller structure with me and each time I am told that the reseller expert is on annual leave!!

Imagine calling your IT support company because your server was down only to be told that the expert is on annual leave!? Simply unacceptable.

I suppose in a way they have done me a favour in so much that I would never deal with a company that is so difficult to deal with BEFORE I had spent any money with them.

At The PC Surgery we educate all our staff about all our clients as well as all our services, so whilst the specific expert may well be on holiday, you can be rest assured that you wont have to wait for them to return before your problem is resolved.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Choosing a great Netbook

Jamie Clarets Top 5 Netbooks

This Post is about the hot product of the moment – Net books. A couple of years ago, if someone had said that one of the best selling classes of technology would be micro laptops based on ten year old operating systems with tiny screens that are no good for anything but surfing, I am not sure I would have believed them.

That, however is what has happened and if you don’t have a net book you are simply not in with the it crowd. I have to admit that I use a Net book almost every day and I understand why they have become so prolific. I believe the combination of great battery life, easy internet browsing, and best of all, dirt cheap has meant that people have begun to question why they have to schlep around a huge 15.4 screen.

With this in mind I have reviewed below the top five netbooks which are currently available. Of course this may all be out of date very soon as Apple have just released details of a small breakthrough called an iPad, you may have heard of it...

5: Acer Aspire One 751 - £300

This Acer is a lovely machine. What sets it out from the majority of netbooks is its larger than average screen which means they can also squeeze a larger than average keyboard. Because of its larger dimensions this netbook will definitely appeal to the diehard laptop user who is reluctant to give up their large amount of screen real estate for a diminutive postage stamp equivalent.

Whilst having a bigger screen and a higher resolution, the Acer is surprisingly slim. At just 25mm thick the 751 is currently one of the slimmest Netbooks available.

It has the usual array of USB ports(3) as well as memory card slot making transferring data and images from your digital camera a doddle.

The main benefit of the 751 is its large screen and keyboard, however it is let down by its rather sluggish performance, which is a shame. With its Atom N270 processor it struggles to keep up with iPlayer playing full screen video.

4: Toshiba NB200 - £350

The Toshiba NB200 has moved things forward significantly in comparison to its first Netbook the NB100.

The NB200 is a much slimmer and attractive machine than the NB100 which was a rather boxy affair. It has a copper coloured finish with a nice silver trim on the keyboard and mouse rest.
Like Apple, Toshiba have given the keyboard isolated keys – similar to the Mac book. All very sexy. However its not all fancy keyboards and shiny cases. The Toshiba is a genuine business tool giving you a shock proof hard drive to protect your data. Once again the Toshiba comes with the usual array of connections such as network, external monitor and USB ports, one of which will remain on even when the netbook is off to enable you to charge your other devices.

The processor is a step up from the Acer, being the Atom N280. This enables it to be a better all round performer that does not struggle with video the same way that the Acer did.
All in all a nice little Netbook which looks and feels good.

3: Dell Inspiron Mini 10 - £390

The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 is like the old BT advert. It comes in all the colours and all the sizes. As with most Dells this netbook is highly configurable and overall it has a very nice feel and build quality, as you would expect. It also has the advantage of using the relatively new Z530 Processor. This means it has no problem playing full screen video for iPlayer.

Aesthetically the Dell should be perfect but unfortunately it has the large 6 cell battery pack that protrudes from the rear is rather ugly. This would not be so bad if the battery life was something to right home about but it does struggle to reach just over 4 hours.

There is one thing however that makes the Dell more annoying than any of the other Netbooks here. In order to keep the Net book small, Dell have integrated the mouse buttons into the touch pad on either side. In theory this is very clever but in reality is simply annoying. They interfere with the use of the touch pad and do not feel natural in their positioning.

I use of these every day and it has become so annoying that I have taken to carrying a separate mouse, which defeats the object slightly!

In summary – tidy little netbook, spoilt by the mouse.

2: Asus Eeepc S101- £320

Asus could be positioned as the company that started the net book revolution with their original eeepc. It was a chunky toy like device that caught on very quickly. With their latest offering they have ditched the toybox looks in favour of a more upmarket businesslike tool. This level of professionalism is carried through to the keyboard which is virtually the same size as full size laptops. It has a lovely 10.2’’ Screen which is bright and has a matte coating which makes it easier on the eyes than the glossy ones.

The Asus has the standard Netbook processor, an Atom N270 and 1GB of Ram. It can play videos and media well and only struggles with playback of Hi definition video.

The EeePC comes with the normal connectivity you would expect of wireless and Bluetooth as well as three USB sockets. In terms of battery life the S101 is more of a sprinter than a long distance runner managing just under three and half hours. However if beautiful design is more important to you than performance then the S101 is for you.

1: Acer Ferrari One - £400

Unlike every other netbook The Acer Ferrari shuns the use of the ATOM processor and instead uses AMD’s new netbook processors the Athlon X2 L310. Therefore, like most Ferrari cars it is streaks ahead of the competition when it comes to performance.

The wider screen and large keyboard and track pad make this netbook a dream to use. As well as this it has a fantastic ATI Radeon graphics card which puts it miles ahead of all the other netbooks.

An unusual feature of the Ferrari is the ATI XGP port. This enables you to plug in an external graphics card and run up to four external monitors off the netbook. Useful? Who knows but a nice touch

Finally none of this extra power seems to have affected the battery life which goes on for an amazing 5 hours.

So if this netbook is so great why is everyone not using one? Well here comes the rub. It is bright red, just like a Ferrari!

So, to conclude, if you do not fancy pulling out a bright red netbook when you are at a meeting then maybe the Asus is for you. But for out and out power the Ferrari wins hands down.
That is, however until Apple officially launch their iPad. For those that have not yet seen the demo on Apples site I would highly recommend that you take a look. This could be a revolution in how we use our computers. Watch this space.

This Article originally appeared in http://www.ilex.org.uk/