Airan’s Blog – My Experience

My Experience at The Apprentice Store

I am now on my sixth week of work experience with The Apprentice Store and have recently been given certain tasks I need to do each week, such as a 500 word article for the end of each week on whatever topic I think is appropriate and then followed by eight posts relating to the chosen topic I’m working on for The Apprentice Store social media, these are to be written one week then posted the next. It’s all in preparation for the coming week.

Matthew’s Blog – The Week of our First Migration

This week the Office 365 cutover migration I mentioned in an earlier blog post was taking place so that’s what most of my work was oriented around. So, for the first part of this week I was using a lot of Excel.

It quickly became clear to me, even though I had respect for Excel, that there is so much more to it. David taught me how to use PivotTables and lookups so that the data our client received could be interpreted within minutes rather than hours. We also wrote some Visual Basic code that scanned down a spreadsheet filled with Names, Usernames and passwords and sent an email to them.  I had always considered Excel a pretty boring piece of software used for finances and graphs but sending almost 100 emails in a matter of seconds? That’s actually pretty cool.

Work Smarter, Not Harder – Office Automation

Mundane, repetitive jobs are not everyone’s favourite task but sometimes they are necessary to ensure the smooth running of your business. However, these kinds of jobs can not only sap motivation from your staff  they can also use up valuable time that could be better spent on growing your business as a recent client of ours knew only too well.

Our client was entering the same data in to two different systems in order to gain just one report at the end of it. That was before they asked The Apprentice Store to help.

Matthew’s Blog – Office 365 Migration

This week we were focusing on data normalisation and preparing for an Office 365 migration, which is essentially taking their existing email system and putting it into the cloud. Oh yeah, Airan has got a PC to work on too however certain parts of the taskbar are frozen so we also had the task of troubleshooting this.

So, the data normalisation, we were working on the Apprentice Store database. I was still struggling with the whole concept of normalisation so a lot of time was spent simply just practising this. I did try to implement what I had learned into Access and I was semi-successful.

Airan’s blog – week 1

Day 1 College presentation 02/05/17

After meeting and talking to David and getting to know Matthew we were tasked with factory resetting a Cisco 1841 and a Cisco 1941 router a lot of it was discussing with David and we didn’t get a lot of time to try get into it especially because the program we used wasn’t working for either router. Eventually we had to stop and head to UHI college to watch 3 groups present their final year project which was a web application they had 12 weeks to work as a team and design, one of the groups project was to make an Apprentice Store website and thus why we were there. After we got back to the office we talked together about our experience at the college and how the groups performed and David mentioned he was filling in at the Stem Hub and would be doing a presentation about cyber security and wondered if we didn’t mind helping.

Matthew’s Blog – Radio Star

Day 1 – But it’s a Tuesday

Coming back from the holidays I was still slightly overwhelmed and somewhat worried at the fact that I was going to get exposed to even more information. I’ve really started to realise now that some of these concepts you only really need an awareness of and there will come a point in time where you’ll learn it. Today was like most other days, a lot of reading and learning and a couple client meetings. One of which was about penetration testing, an area that interests me. Turns out it’s not as common as I thought. It’d be rare for us to carry something like this out but it does seem like a good bit of fun.

Matthew Dickinson

Matthew was our first Apprentice here at The Apprentice Store, and specialises in Cloud and Application Support.

Matthew likes Powershell.

Big Apprenticeship Event 2017

The Apprentice Store are excited to be attending The Big Apprenticeship Event being held at Inverness Royal Academy today, 9th March 2017. We’ll be there to chat about how you can get involved in our shared apprenticeship programme as an apprentice, a mentor or a business.

Be sure to come and visit us and have a go at our “CRACK THE PASSWORD” game!

Modern Apprenticeship Vacancy: IT Support Technician

 

Have you heard? We’re looking for a very special person to fill our first apprenticeship vacancy. APPLY NOW!

You’ll be working at The Apprentice Store in Inverness learning how to deliver a first class service to our client businesses around the Highlands. You’ll be mentored by our own David Massey who has had almost 30 years experience in delivery of IT services.

Cyber Essentials Renewal

As we were the first business in the Highlands and Islands that had achieved the UK government backed Cyber Essentials scheme badge for cyber security, we are the first needing to complete the annual renewal process. We are very pleased to announce that we have achieved Cyber Essentials again with this demonstrating the level of security that we have in place within our IT systems.

Can’t believe it is Microsoft calling?

While writing up a report this week for a client for their Cyber Security strategy I took a call from a UK number with a very kind and polite person from Microsoft calling me to assist me with a problem that my computer is suffering from. I knew very quickly that this was a scam but I wanted to see how mature this was so I put some time into this but also playing hard to get by constantly questioning what they were asking me to do and asking if it was a scam to give them a chance to end the call.

The backup contract that is worth nothing, check your backup now!

I have had cause to review a number of support contracts since releasing the article ‘Why do I need a contract?‘ with one in particular highlighting many things that I thought would be of interest to those who contacted me about this subject. I will not mention any names to protect the privacy of my client and the supplier but all of this is genuine extraction from a contract that covers data backups where it appears in quotes and italics. This particular contract is a general outsourced IT support contract aimed at the small to medium sized business without an internal IT resource and I understand that this contract has been used across a reasonably large client base.

Please take a ticket!

We have all been in the position where we have needed to call a help desk and once we have managed to traverse the automated call handler, we should hopefully get to speak to someone about our problem. Subject to the type of service that you are calling and the contract that you operate within, you should get either a call logging service that uses a script or get to speak with someone who can actually help you. You may find that your help desk hides behind a web based support portal or operates an automated email monitor but the result should be the same. In every support case you should fall into a support process that formally logs the incident and you should get an incident reference number. You will note the word ‘should’ is being used a lot in the opening and that is because many help desks do not operate this way, which is the topic of this article from my From the Trenches series.

Do you know what has changed?

I regularly find that problems that I speak with clients about are due to poor change management when I asked to review risk management within their business data systems. I would suggest that this problem exists in equal quantity where businesses outsource or insource their IT services. Where Cloud or hosted services are being used there is generally a good level of change management in that service but this is not always the case and should not be assumed.

Why do I need a contract or Service Level Agreement?

You outsource your IT help desk, your email services and your website but do you know what protection you have and what you get for your money in the contract? I have many conversations with clients about the risk profile of their outsourced IT service contracts that offer critical business dependency. In some cases the discussion happens before a problem but in many cases it is after some unplanned downtime when their Service Level Agreement (SLA) contract was found to be wanting. In this article I will discuss some common problems that I find and what you can do to protect yourself and this is targeted to customers and service providers alike.

Cyber Security, what should I do now?

We have all seen the many recent news items with high profile and large business related Cyber Security attacks but when talking with clients of all sizes and across all sectors, they all share a concern for the threat at varying levels. When talking further with these clients, they generally feel confused as to what they can do to protect themselves but commonly feel that ‘IT have it covered’ so they are protected and as a result do not need to do anything about managing this risk.

Backups are still a necessary pain!

The number one problem that I discuss with clients is backup and recovery with this initiated by both of us in equal quantities. It constantly surprises me that businesses of all sizes have inadequate backup processes for their business systems. Many businesses, whilst having implemented a backup strategy, fail to monitor and test it often resulting in them finding out their backup strategy doesn’t perform adequately when they need it most. In this article I will be covering data protection through backup and recovery to meet clear business, rather than technically, defined objectives.

Feedback from IT Health Checks

I have worked with a number of organisations over the last 2 years from the very small micro business to large multi‑national organisations purely in a consultancy role. What has struck me during these engagements is that, since I am no longer selling any hardware, software or solutions, client discussions cover much more and get deeper into the business quicker than in any previous role that I have held and feedback suggests that this is better for the client.

The Apprentice Store features in the Executive Magazine

In our first press outing The Apprentice Store has featured in the Executive Magazine. June’s edition features the IN-Business supplement by Inverness Chamber of Commerce and is also being distributed at the AMM Scottish Open Golf Championships being held at Castle Stuart.

“FOR a small business, hiring apprentices sometimes is not as easy as it could be.

The Apprentice Store joins the Inverness Chamber of Commerce

We’re now Chamber of Commerce Members

We’re delighted to announce that we have joined Inverness Chamber of Commerce. Inverness Chamber provides so many great ways of connecting with other local businesses including networking opportunities and events.

We’re looking forward to our first networking lunch on Wednesday 15th June and having the opportunity of chatting to fellow members about what we’re doing at here at The Apprentice Store.

The Apprentice Store receives seed funding from Firstport

Firstport awards £3,200 in seed funding to new shared apprenticeship programme

We are delighted to announce that The Apprentice Store has been awarded seed funding from the Scottish Government’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund. This means that we can start making a difference to young people sooner. We have been fortunate enough to benefit from £3,200 to help our shared apprenticeship venture grow. The Apprentice Store will help young people and those from disadvantaged or challenging backgrounds into employment. The funding has allowed us to concentrate on launching our website and begin marketing The Apprentice Store to local businesses in Inverness.

David Massey

David specialises in IT Consultancy and Cyber Security (amongst many, many other things!) and is the Managing Director of The Apprentice Store.

Surprisingly, David does not like computers, but loves what you can do with them.

He also doesn’t like technology being used badly.

However, he does like squash, so much so that he has ended up playing squash for Scotland.

Article published in Insurance Day December 2015

Insurers need to find a better way to assess cyber risk

Due to the ever increasing utilisation of digital technology and the volume of data being processed and stored electronically, every business needs to become much more aware of the risks that they face. We have all heard of the high profile data leakages by Sony and Ashley Madison but how many data leakage events have occurred in the last 12 months that we have not heard about? In both cases it is thought that the leakage was caused through a socially engineered attack or weak internal systems control but this is now outside the interest of mainstream media and forgotten about. It is often the case that the reputational costs of a data breach are higher than the monetary value of the data leaked and, as a result, businesses should not focus purely on data that has a perceived high value.

Cyber Essentials arrives in the Highlands and Islands

We are very pleased to announce that we are the first business in the Highlands and Islands that has achieved the UK government backed Cyber Essentials scheme badge for cyber security. The Cyber Essentials scheme was released in June 2014 and today just over 1,000 businesses have managed to achieve this accreditation and given the very recent media coverage of the Talk Talk data breach it is ever more important that UK businesses implement controls and policies to protect against this threat. In addition to achieving Cyber Essentials, we also achieve ACE Practitioner status and are able to offer assistance to businesses that wish to achieve Cyber Essentials.

Cloud Computing

The information technology industry and its’ services are changing with more businesses now subscribing to their computer services through the Cloud rather than purchasing it. This change in service delivery is being looked at by more businesses as it can offer them flexibility, enhanced security and cost savings. We are seeing more software vendors adopting Cloud delivery models for their software for the same reasons but this may not always materialise with the same benefits for their customers. Cloud computing service cost can be confusing and can result in hidden costs and risks if it is not understood properly.