January saw a huge collection of security updates

Security patches were issued for patches for iOS, Chrome, Windows, Apple, Firefox and more.

Here’s a short summary but you can find out more on this in Wired here

Apple has released iOS 16.3 along with a new feature that allows you to use security keys as an extra layer of protection for your Apple ID.

Google Chrome has fixed 17 vulnerabilities in the browser and Google Android has posted a number of patches for Android devices in its Android Security Bulletin. It also has fixes for Pixel and Samsung Galaxy devices.

Microsoft has also issued 98 security patches and Software firm Mozilla has released important updates for its Firefox browser, the most serious of which have been the subject of a warning by the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

There are many more fixes and updates included in the article and for the sake of your business security it is worth doing  thorough review of whatever systems you use.


It is not bosses but in-demand staff who dictate employment conditions

Raj Choudhury, an economist from Harvard Business School, is quoted in a Wired article as arguing that the most sought-after job candidates who end up shaping what our jobs look like.

His most recent deduction is that staff now demand much greater flexibility than ever before.

That means employers will need to be open to the options of hybrid working, remote working and variants and will no longer be able to insist on staff being present in the office at all times if they want to retain them.

While working from home became the norm during the Covid pandemic, staff have noticed the benefits and the desire to continue in this way has therefore not gone away.

The article suggests that “established firms will be presented with the decision of whether to hang on to expensive real estate and slow-to-evolve managers, or to just dash to chase the new trend”.

For more on this:


Very Happy Christmas

..and if you are a small business or sole trader who hasn’t yet tried our support services, why not get in touch in the New Year.

Our tailored support packages will ensure all your IT needs are met and your equipment runs smoothly.

We always provide practical advice that utilises both existing technology and newer developments, so you can make informed decisions and all in plain English.

With a range of investment options from telephone and remote support included in a monthly package giving you a ‘virtual’ IT department, to Pay-as-you-go support for a one off problem or issue, you can be confident in having the right commercial option to give you peace of mind.

Hope to hear from you in the New Year.


Why is sustainability important to your business?

Obviously sustainability is important to the future of the planet but why is it equally important for businesses to demonstrate?

Sustainability in business refers to more than just the environment.  According to the Harvard business school it covers “: the effect a business has on the environment, and the effect a business has on society, with the goal of sustainable practice being to have a positive impact on at least one of those areas “.

The reason it is important for a business to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability is in essence about its ability to recruit.

There has been a good deal of publicity recently about the shortage of suitable candidates.

One of the most important criteria potential candidates are citing when they are looking at businesses and jobs, according to Adobe, is whether and how far the business prioritised sustainability.

Adobe has found that “almost a third of people said they would only work for an employer that prioritised sustainability” while 43% said it would positively impact on productivity.

Clearly if a business is to attract the best candidates, it needs to not simply promote itself as sustainable, it needs to demonstrate how it does this.


Measuring productivity and why it is important

In the current difficult economic climate how well a business is performing may be crucial to survival.

Measuring its productivity is therefore important.

Productivity is the measure of production against efficiency, and it is especially important in an era of remote or flexible working patterns.

According to Opus Energy, 86% of UK SMEs believe productivity is an issue, yet one in five (22%) businesses are not measuring productivity at all.

Measuring productivity is not a straightforward calculation of the numbers of items produced, the cost of production and the number of staff producing the item. That may be relatively straightforward for the manufacture of a product.

However, as an example, “One hour spent on the phone resolving a query from an unhappy customer could be worth a lot more than one new sales call. Why? An unhappy customer can do more damage to your business.

The key to measuring productivity is to set a number of benchmarks against which performance can be assessed.

This includes identifying expected work outputs for each position, defining and measuring tasks not hours worked, setting clear goals for staff and placing values on the quality of work.

There is a useful guide to assessing productivity for SMEs here.


Will the mini budget help your business?

There were several items in the mini budget that the Government claims will help businesses.

They include:

  • 45% higher rate of income tax abolished for England, Wales and Northern Ireland taxpayers
  • One single higher rate of income tax of 40% from April next year
  • Reverse recent rise in National Insurance (NI) from 6 November
  • Cancel UK-wide rise in corporation tax which was due to increase from 19% to 25% in April 2023
  • IR35 rules – the rules which govern off-payroll working – to be simplified
  • Annual investment allowance, the amount companies can invest tax free, remains at £1m indefinitely
  • New and start-up companies able to raise up to £250,000 under scheme giving tax relief to investors
  • Setting up investment zones with 38 local areas in England

It has been argued that most of these measures will help those at the top end of the economy, but the government expects the benefits to “trickle down” to the rest of the economy.

Only time will tell whether it will work.


Use of spyware has been rocketing across Europe

Commercially produced spyware has been used increasingly to target businesses and organisations across Europe.

That is not to say that UK businesses are safe, especially those that trade within Europe.

It is used to gain access to phones, emails and records for a variety of purposes from targeting individuals to gaining access to sensitive business or political information.

It makes sense to ensure all security protocols are up to date and to limit access to information on phones and in emails.

Using two factor authentication for passwords and keeping sensitive information offline are obvious precautionary measures.

Making sure employees are trained in staying safe online is also crucial and keeping them regularly updated on new scams is crucial.


Online-only services are predicted to leave some people behind

Partly because of the Covid pandemic lockdowns there has been a significant growth in online-only services covering everything from banking to restaurant menus.

According to a Wired article in the UK “the number of bank and building society branches fell by a third between 2012 and 2021.”

This is all very well for those who are comfortable with technology and mobile phones but there are worries that these developments will leave behind some particularly vulnerable groups in the community.

Not only this, but there are concerns, says Wired, that “the technology is often terrible”.

Having a basic broadband service and mobile internet is becoming a necessity. But what can people do if they live, say, in a rural location where the services are patchy?

Similarly, there are some groups such as pensioners or those on a low income who may not be able to afford these services, regardless of whether they are tch literate or not.

According to Wired “An estimated 2.9 billion people—37 percent of the world’s population—have never used the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations’ IT agency”.

Clearly, there is a need for governments to set a basic level of service for all citizens regardless of income or access to technology.


SMEs are engines for growth

Recent research reveals that SMEs are major contributors to business and economic growth and therefore to job creation.

It is argued that successful SMEs often contribute to the success of other SMEs by partnering with, or outsourcing, some parts of their business, such as marketing, design and accountancy.

The effect has been most noticeable in retail, where two years of Covid lockdowns have forced more retailers online leading to an increase in online marketplaces from which to sell their goods.

But this has not meant the total death of physical retail outlets so much as to a change in their purposes and adapting to the changing needs of their consumers.

Partnerships, agility and collaboration are all part of helping SMEs to grow and to take others with them, ultimately for the benefit of all their stakeholders whether they are customers, staff or shareholders and investors.


Climate change action requires collaboration

Climate change action requires collaboration and partnerships of all kinds

The damage that has been done and continues to be done to the environment across the world is rarely out of the news, along with its consequences in affecting people’s lives.

But, according to an article in Wired, tackling and reversing the damage is going to require collaboration by all sorts of people, from individuals to scientists to businesses and governments.

It argues that social media and AI will have a significant part to play in both raising awareness and in action:

“AI models, including those that Microsoft is developing with research teams and academia, are revealing the perilous pace at which we are destroying our environment.”

It suggests that collaborations between the developed world and developing countries to share insights and come up with sustainable practices will be needed.

Sharing technology, will help to develop sustainable practices in everything from farming to forest conservation, not to mention government policies across the world.

With technology companies as key partners, it suggests, there is an opportunity to not only share best practice but for new businesses and production systems to develop for the better future of countries and their environments around the world.