Matthew’s Blog – Improvise!

The bulk of the work for my second Office 365 migration had now been completed with just a few finishing touches needing to be made. My focus shifted over to preparing for a workshop at the UHI for a group of RAF cadets.

David showed Vicky and I a website which had cyber security challenges and quizzes. The plan was to base the workshop around this. I found these really tricky, even some of the easy ones! I had a lot of questions but once these were answered and I’d tried the challenges a couple times I felt I was ready for the workshop.

Matthew’s Blog – Snail Mail to the Rescue!

The migration took place this week, our client could still access both old email and new email after we changed the mail flow so there was minimal disruption but I still felt the pressure to get things working properly. I had done all the necessary preparations but you never know what sort of problems could arise.

And a problem did arise, I was uploading email data to 365 from their server but found out that their connection couldn’t handle it. After a quick google search I found I could limit the bandwidth the upload command was using, this worked but it worked slowly. It was going to take 3 days at this rate, we’d be quicker posting the data!

Matthew’s Blog – Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
This week I was starting the work for my second Office 365 migration, this is for a far smaller company and we’re doing the service free of charge. This provides a great opportunity for me to take a bit more of a lead with my experience from the last migration.

I’ve learnt that IT requires a lot of planning so that was the first step, come up with a project plan. I used the one David had written for the last migration as a starting point and got to work. Now I had a rough idea of what I was doing I started to take action, using PowerShell to gather information about all the resources on our client’s server.

Matthew’s Blog – Phishing and Footprinting

I mentioned that we went to meet a client in Elgin last week, they were interested in getting Vicky to do a free penetration test on their network. I assumed that the work she would do for this would just go over my head but I was glad to find something I was familiar with. Phishing emails. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s basically a scam email claiming that you’ve won money in a competition or some other kind of scenario but in reality, they have some kind of malicious intent. What we were going to do was a bit different than the generic “You’ve won £5000!”, we were going to do a targeted phishing email with our client from Elgin as the target.

Office 365

Airan’s Blog – Office 365

The Benefits of Office 365

This article is all about Microsoft Office 365 and why more and more businesses are paying for it’s services/apps and why I think it’s beneficial. I’ll give examples on why, based on my experience using it and knowledge of it. I’m currently with The Apprentice Store where I’m doing work experience and getting a feel for some things in IT and all it has it offer. After being involved and observing the process of migrating a business to Office 365 I’m fully convinced and now hopefully I can make people reading this more convinced on the service.

QA Apprenticeship

Matthew’s Blog – Manuals, Cyber Essentials and Ethical Hacking!

Office 365, Cyber Essentials, Modern Apprenticeship work and even some ethical hacking.  It’s been a busy week. I’ll start with Office 365.

As expected some small problems did arise after the migration, for example, some emails were getting let through our client’s spam filter. The Apprentice Store currently aims to not only support but to educate people so our solution to this was to create user guides so that’s what I did. I also made a user guide covering how to use the Excel spreadsheets I mentioned in the last blog post. I do think they help me a lot, you have to know a subject well to teach it. Later on, I did a bit of Windows PowerShell, I seem to be using it more and more so I plan to invest some time learning it in the future.

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.

Inverness Kart Raceway

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 – Working From Home

This week I was working from home, Airan had a week off and David was on a Business trip. The first task I decided to tackle was a presentation comparing a Business Essentials and a Business plan for Office 365. I thought that business essentials only costing £3.80 user/month would mean it wouldn’t have much to offer, I was wrong. I worked on this for the majority of the day but not to completion. The next day I continued to work on it but being overwhelmed with the huge amount on offer within this plan I decided to divert from this and take a trip to the office as I needed to take some photos to complete apprenticeship work on health and safety. I came back, worked on the presentation but, yet again, not to completion.

Microsoft Office 365

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.

Matthew’s Blog – A Busy Week

Day 1 – Work Experience Guy

We’ve got a new addition to the Apprentice Store, Airan Mackenzie! He’s going to be with us for 8 weeks and he’s writing a blog of his own. So, the first part of today was mainly spent trying to figure out what to do with these two routers David had found us. After a bit of trial and error we finally connected to them only to be prompted with “WARNING: SOMETHING SOMETHING BT EQUIPMENT!!!” so the investigation of the routers stopped there. In the afternoon we headed to the UHI to watch some 3rd year degree computing students presentation. Why? Because one of the group’s projects was to design a web application for us. It was an interesting experience and I was highly impressed with the work displayed.

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.

North Highland Radio

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’s Blog – Week 1

First time writing a blog, first time in employment and my first week at The Apprentice Store. That’s what I’ll be writing about today.

Day one – New job

So, day one. I had been in before for 3 days which was basically like a long job interview so I had a rough idea of what to expect but still had no idea just how little I knew about the mystical world of IT. The day was spent firstly introducing me to the job, the kinds of things I would be doing, fire safety, my employment contract that sort of thing.  After that it was time to create an Office 365 account for me and then simply discussing any kind of questions I had. The rest of the days followed the same kind of layout, a brief discussion in the morning, a task or set of work for me do and in depth discussions of any questions I had throughout the day but I’ll tell you about them anyway.

Matthew Dickinson

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.