Success stories

Our customers come in all shapes and sizes.

We work with organisations from all walks of life, with different ambitions and requirements. Explore how we’ve helped them reimagine everyday, and align technology with their culture and business goals.

White label IT support for technology companies

Does your technology company require white label IT support? Here's what to look out for and what to avoid.
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Women in tech: Kerry Burgess, Service Desk Manager

Only 19% of people working in tech are female. One person bucking that trend is our Service Desk Manager, Kerry Burgess. In this interview she talks about her career to date.
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IT support services for education

Over the last 12 months several trends in IT support services for education have developed. Find out more about these and how they may impact you here.
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The difference between first line and second line IT support

What's the difference between first line and second line IT support? Find out here where we provide an overview of IT support levels.
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Switching IT service desk providers in 6 steps

Thinking about switching service desk providers? Here are the service take on steps you should expect for a seamless transition >
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Are you getting the right remote working support from your IT provider?

High quality IT support was important before the shift to remote working. It’s even more important now. Are you getting the right kind of support from your IT provider?
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2021: be agile, be positive, be kind

Our 2021 resolutions are to be agile, be positive and be kind. What are yours?
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Small business IT priorities 2021

Looking to 2021, SMBs need to set their IT priorities and leverage technologies to regain efficiency. We’ve listed those priorities here >
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Why technical support is important for user adoption

Read our post "why technical support is important for user adoption' to find out how your support team can and should do more than solve IT issues.
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remote working connected collaboration

Keeping remote employees connected and collaborating successfully

Remote working doesn't equate to a loss of productivity or lower levels of collaboration. With the right technology employees can work successfully.
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Renewal of outsourcing contracts: IT service providers

Choosing the right IT partners has never been more important. Most businesses have relied heavily on their IT service provider (or MSP) over the last few recent months, especially for support transitioning users from the office to remote working. Some required set-ups of new cloud services, others needed help getting the most out of existing ones. Whatever the requirements for organisations have been, one thing’s for sure; MSPs have really been put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your IT service provider contract is up for renewal, it’s time to ensure that the providers you partner with can continue to support your organisation’s workforce, objectives and IT environment into the future. During uncertain times, it’s more important than ever that you can trust and rely on your IT service provider. Is your service desk 4 star? Download our checklist to find out > Whether you’re in the market for a new partnership, or you’re happy with your existing one, you should be asking the following key questions to make sure they are the right match for your business: Do you have experience working with customers in my sector? An IT company will probably work across many sectors, but it’s important to know if they have experience of yours. Is their business model adaptable to suit different businesses? Could they cope if your business grew? Understanding how they handle individual customer requirements and business sizes will give you insight into whether it could be a long-term partnership. Who is responsible for taking care of our business and how will we know if that changes? A good quality IT service provider will have a clear and structured process as an answer to this question. They might assign a specific account manager randomly, or they might match your needs to a particular team member. Whatever their method, it’s important that it’s clear who you are to contact both day-to-day and in an emergency. It is also handy to find out how they would transition you to a new contact if your current one left their business. During the current pandemic, you should also regularly ask how they are offering increased virtual support in the absence of onsite meetings. What’s your customer retention rate? Don’t be afraid to ask to look at retention figures and references at any stage of your relationship with your service provider. Customer retention should be high for IT support companies; if they deliver what they say they will, charge a fair price and are easy to communicate with, they are unlikely to lose customers! If their retention rate isn’t what you would expect, is there a reasonable explanation? How can you help us decrease our spend? This has been a key requirement for many businesses lately. A quality IT service provider will be invested in helping you save money where it makes sense. A good answer should include reviewing your service licencing and usage to ensure you are only paying for what you need. The provider should also take advantage of any offers and discounts and be fully transparent about their pricing. You should also trust them to advise you on what you shouldn’t reduce spend on, like stripping back security layers. What’s the worst disaster you’ve faced recently? Every IT service provider has dealt with unexpected disasters; finding out how they dealt with and learned from them will give you some valuable insight into how much they care about their customers. If the provider is happy to go into detail and talk through the positives and negatives, it shows they’re honest, open and realistic. How can you help our business successfully work remotely? COVID-19 has changed the way we work and remote working is now front of mind for many businesses. It’s important to find out what the strategy is for supporting businesses with remote working both now and long-term. If an IT service provider has managed to transition seamlessly to remote working themselves, and can offer you a structured plan, then you know that remote working is a priority for them. Finding the right IT support company for your business could be the difference between minimal disruption in the event of a disaster, and potentially losing valuable customers. Our service desk has achieved the SDI 4* accreditation that demonstrates that our business is totally committed to highly efficient, cost effective Managed Services and that we have the focus required to deliver an excellent quality of service To find out whether your service desk is 4 star download our checklist below, or use it to shortlist a new provider.
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5 reasons you need Out of Hours IT Support

Increasingly companies are extending their IT service desks to offer users out-of-hours IT support. The infographic below explores the 5 key drivers which our clients most often cite as their reasons for outsourcing to a global service desk. Does your organisation have a requirement for out of hours IT support? Have a look to see… Do you need Out of Hours IT Support? In summary, here are the most common reasons companies need out-of-hours IT support: Employees work outside of core business hours – it’s often the more senior members of staff who continue working into the evenings and at weekends. Shift patterns are also a factor as is the increasing demand from employees for more flexible hours. Whether it’s starting early or finishing late, staff can’t be fully productive if they experience IT issues so support is necessary. Customers need access at weekends and evenings – if your business sells consumer products or services you may find that many of your customers need access to your IT systems outside of business hours. The prime-time for online shopping is at 8pm. Websites and online portals need to be up and technical support should be available if relevant. Demand for remote working – like flexible working, more people want the option to work remotely either sometimes or regularly. And there are benefits for companies who have remote working policies. When staff work remotely they will often combine this with more flexible hours, working when they are most productive and balancing other commitments around their work. Your business needs to be ‘always up’ – few companies are really closed at the end of the working day: in a digital world customers may engage with your business at any time of the day or night. To be competitive your IT systems, from email to customer portals, need to be ‘always up’ – otherwise you risk reputation damage and missed opportunities. Users in different time zones – multinational companies need to provide IT support for their users when they’re active. Even if there’s only 1 hours difference between an overseas market and the UK, there’s a knock on effect on productivity and the bottom line if systems go down or key users experience IT issues. What are your options? You don’t have to go all in with a 24/7 service desk. Instead you can keep your existing service desk team for core hours, and outsource out-of-hours IT support to a service desk provider. This negates the need to hire staff out-of-hours (expensive) and shared services means that if you have relatively small ticket volumes outside of business hours this is still an option. Out of hours IT support can include evenings, night time or both; as well as weekends and Bank Holidays. If your users are in different time zones and non-native English speakers, consider a multilingual service desk. This has a positive effect on response, resolution times and user satisfaction, as clear communications ensure that service desk analysts understand the issue and impact on the user, and deliver the best possible solution. Please speak to our service desk team if you have any questions about out-of-hours IT support, contact us or book a discovery call here >
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White label IT support for technology companies

In the last 12 months we’ve experienced several enquires about white label IT support from technology companies.

For many, this has been driven by an increase in demand for their products – particularly those selling SaaS solutions and online tools – coupled with increased 1st and 2nd line IT support ticket volumes. We’re also seeing higher demand for out-of-hours or 24/7 support, to provide coverage for users outside of traditional business hours, and multilingual IT support for companies who are experiencing global growth.

To this end, we thought it would be helpful to provide some information about white label IT services and what best practice looks like.

What should you expect from white label IT services?

The clue is in the name! The best white label managed service providers deliver a customer experience that gives the end user the impression they’re dealing with you. This means not only communicating as your brand but also understanding your culture and protecting your organisation’s reputation.

A great white label managed service provider becomes part of your team. Extensive culture training as well as in depth product training ensures analysts provides the service your customers expect from you. Find out more about the importance of cultural fit here >

1st line IT support is more than referring to a knowledgebase!

If you’re outsourcing 1st line support, product training is extremely important. From conversations with new customers we’ve learnt that not all 1st line IT support providers deliver the resolutions expected. Some providers simply refer to the technology company’s knowledgebase (which is often already available to end users), and anything not included is triaged and escalated to 2nd line.

1st line support, in our view, should do more than triage issues and provide copy and pasted responses: this is what 0 line (also known as T0 and L0) is for. Self-service options like FAQs, ChatBots and knowledge banks are increasingly the first port of call for end-users who need support. Therefore, if they raise a ticket, they’ve already exhausted self-service support and need someone with technical expertise to resolve their issue.

A 1st line service desk analyst should know your technology product inside out and have received training in order to resolve common issues at first contact. For example, each team member (analyst) should undertake a customer specific learning programme; including a business overview, culture and philosophy, technology environment, application training, historic issue profiling and, if applicable and geographically possible, a site visit to meet key stakeholders.

Usually, when we on board a new customer in the technology sector, the customer’s technical team will initially provide our analysts with system / application training as well as any knowledge bank articles already written. We will then continually update this resource with new fixes or information as we are made aware, as well as undertaking training in-house for new team members. When knowledge bank articles are not available, we will develop this content ourselves.

As a result, analysts are able to provide more first contact fixes for end users and avoid escalating 1st line tickets to 2nd line. This is how 1st line should work; reducing the number of tickets your technical team has to deal with, allowing them to focus on other activities and resolve more complex technical issues at developer level.

Global technology platforms require global IT support

Cloud technology has broken down many barriers including borders between countries. If your technology product is available to users around the world, support also needs to be available in their time zone and native language.

One option is to provide local IT support either internally (if you have technical teams available in different regions) or by outsourcing to a local managed service provider. However, a more straightforward option is to partner with a provider with global reach and multilingual analysts.

A 24/7/365 IT service desk team covers all time zones as well as anyone working or using your products outside of normal business hours. The cost of providing out-of-hours or 24/7 IT support is usually less with a managed service provider than staffing this requirement internally.

IT support can also be provided in key languages, with bilingual or multilingual analysts available to respond to and resolve tickets in English and other languages, and staffing aligned to relevant time zones.

For many technology companies, 24/7 and multilingual IT support has been a key driver in their ability to grow in overseas markets.

Does your business need a white label IT support?

Here are 3 things to ask potential providers:

  1. What is your definition of 1st line support?
  2. What’s your on boarding process?
  3. How do you approach service improvement?

We’re always happy to have an informal chat about managing IT support and ensuring end users get the best possible experience. If you would like to speak to a member of our team please get in touch, or book a meeting using the calendar link below:

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Women in tech: Kerry Burgess, Service Desk Manager

Even though the technology industry is becoming increasingly diverse, only 19% of people working in tech in the UK are female*. To celebrate International Women’s Day we thought we would shine a light on one women in tech: Kerry Burgess. Kerry is our Service Desk Manager. In the interview below, she shares what her role entails and her technology career to date.

Q: What do you do at Cloud Business?

Kerry Burgess: “My responsibilities include supporting the Service Desk team leaders in their day-to-day roles. I’m also in regular contact with our customers, both for service reviews and escalations. Ensuring everyone on the team are all trained up in the customers they support is also key to my role, especially recently with the two Service Desks becoming one big team.”

Q: What’s your background?

KB: “I joined the business on an apprenticeship as an Office Administrator straight from college in 2011. Once I had completed my apprenticeship, I joined the Service Desk team as a first line analyst and then after a few years moved into the First Line Team leader role. In 2017 I became the Service Desk – Assistant Manager and last year was promoted to the Service Desk Manager role.”

Q: Do you have any specific qualifications or expertise?

KB: “I completed the Service Now Fundamentals Training Course and manage certain parts of the configuration of Service Now for one of our customers.”

Q: What’s a typical week at Cloud Business like for you?

KB: “I know it sounds cliché, but no two weeks are the same. Day-to-day I can be helping our customers implement new processes or helping facilitate the needs of the team including resource management. My role is varied, continually liaising with customers ensuring that their needs are met or exceeded. Each week presents new challenges to overcome and help us grow as a Service Desk.”

Q: What do you most like about working at Cloud Business / your job?

KB: “I get to communicate with all levels of the business and generally colleagues become friends. There are always opportunities to learn and at the end of the day I feel a great sense of achievement knowing the work I am doing is helping our team and customers.”

Q: How are you finding working from home?

KB: “I am very fortunate to have a spare room that we have labelled ‘the office’ (although it is also a Christmas decoration holding area at the moment) so I still have a differentiation between work and home, which can be difficult to achieve if you are working from your kitchen or relaxation space. I enjoy working from home, although I do miss the face-to-face interaction with the team that you get from working together in the office. It is good to have a video chat, rather than a phone call, with colleagues every once in a while, to help bring some of that interaction back.”

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

KB: “Before Covid I enjoyed visiting National Trust properties at the weekends and exploring new towns. The Cotswolds is a regular place I enjoy visiting, there are lots of villages and hamlets to explore. During Covid, the highlight of my week is a walk with my Mum and a visit to the supermarket!”

Q: Tell us something surprising about yourself?

KB: “I am an avid Formula 1 fan and aspire to go and watch the Belgian Grand Prix live one day.”

* https://www.womenintech.co.uk/

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IT support services for education

In the last 12 months IT support services for education establishments have undergone a dramatic transformation. The move to remote learning has changed how IT support is delivered. Before the pandemic many schools, further education and HE institutions provided on-site support, with service desk analysts and technicians on hand to resolve issues for the user community including staff and students alike.

Now remote IT support is the norm and demand has increased significantly as teaching, admin, research and other activities have moved online with a greater reliance on technology.

51% of educators believe that remote education is a sustainable way of continuing to offer high quality learning in the future.

Trends in IT support for the education sector

Now, that the initial mass deployment of remote learning / remote working strategies have bedded in, we’re noticing a number of key trends.

Level of IT support is linked to remote learning success: Being able to access IT support services easily and with rapid response times is crucial for successful remote learning outcomes. Both for teaching staff and students. Any technology issues that impact on a student’s ability to access to education are going to have a detrimental impact, whether it’s a teacher unable to take a live online class or a student unable to log in to resources. Adequate provision of support is therefore essential during teaching hours as well as private study times.

It’s about morale and engagement too: How engaged students are with remote learning is also linked to their experience of IT support. Many students are struggling to motivate themselves and any difficulties with technology can be overwhelming. Younger students, who are not as used to working independently, may find IT issues particularly challenging and some may lack the confidence to ask for support. Clear communications about how to access IT support and multiple channels for raising tickets, are vital.

Teaching staff are also likely to find remote learning challenging and, as a result, their job satisfaction levels have fallen. Reducing technology barriers and providing high quality support will ensure that your IT team department are not solely held responsible for a poor teaching experience.

Demand for flexible IT support: With many people having to juggle family commitments with remote work (such as home schooling their own children) teaching, admin, faculty and support staff may need to work outside of normal working hours. Many organisations are extending IT support hours into the evenings to ensure productivity levels are not adversely affected by IT issues.

Virtual desktops: To support remote learning many universities and other institutions have rolled out desktop and app virtualisation services. Solutions like Windows Virtual Desktop provide users with access to all the systems and applications they need to do their job – whether that’s teaching, learning or other roles – in the cloud. Users get the same desktop experience on their own device as they would on their work computer. Their virtual machine is set up just like their desktop in their office, in the ICT suite, library or on other corporate-owned machines. To ensure end users experience zero disruption and high application availability, consider how this service will be managed and what support your user community will need. IT support is also a critical part of user adoption of new technologies.

Self-service portals: Another key trend is the increase in demand for self-service IT support portals. These don’t replace analysts and technicians but can help to reduce ticket volumes and streamline support requests. Self-service portals provide ‘0 line IT support’ in the form of knowledgebase content so that your user community can troubleshoot common issues for themselves. As most education institutions are full of tech-savvy individuals, this can have a very positive impact on productivity and downtime.

Self-service portals also allow your user community to report issues that are not time critical, make requests for software, hardware, changes to user accounts and a variety of other common IT requests. This helps both users and IT teams, making it easy to log tickets and also to manage workflows.

Shared support services: Some organisations that have traditionally delivered on-site IT support to their user community, have struggled to provide remote support and manage the increase in ticket volumes and demand for extended hours. That’s why we’re seeing a substantial increase in enquires for shared support services.

A shared IT service desk offers you highly qualified analysts providing the right coverage for your user community, without the associated costs of hiring additional internal staff. This solution can scale with demand, allowing a certain amount of flexibility if ticket volumes increase or fall. With the continuing uncertainty about when education will return to ‘normal’, a shared IT service desk can be a cost effective option for delivering the support students and staff need.

Cloud Business provides IT services to many public sector organisations. You can find out more here >

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The difference between first line and second line IT support

It’s a common question we get asked when customers are exploring outsourcing IT support…”What’s the difference between first line and second line support?”

Most IT service providers tier IT support so that customers can choose the level they require. Whether providing services for customers or for staff, these tiers are referred to as 1st line, 2nd line and 3rd line. You may also come across 4th line too.

At the core of any IT service desk is first line and second line. These are the levels that cover most issues raised by your user community, with the highest ticket volumes for IT related problems.

Find out how much outsourcing 1st and / or 2nd line IT support would cost your organisation, use our cost calculator here >

What is first line support?

When a user reaches out for IT support, as the name suggests, they come to first line. 1st line service desk analysts can handle most everyday requests and IT issues, and will aim to resolve these at first point of contact. While 1st line service desk analysts are by nature generalists, they will have excellent knowledge of the tools your user community uses to ensure common problems don’t need to be escalated. If your organisation sells a technology product, 1st line analysts should receive sufficient training to be able to resolve many of the common issues related to your product or service.

If a support ticket requires more technical expertise, or if the 1st line analyst is unable to resolve it, they will triage the issue and escalate it to second line support.

What is second line support?

IT issues that are either too technical for 1st line analysts or are more complicated and time consuming are dealt with by second line analysts. IT service desk companies like ourselves may provide both 1st and 2nd line support to a customer, or any combination.

For example, a company using Microsoft 365 for most workflows and tools may want to outsource both 1st and 2nd line so its employees can access expert IT support without becoming a drain on the internal IT team’s time. Whereas another company may have sufficient resource in-house to manage 1st line tickets, but needs more specialist technical expertise for 2nd line. Conversely, a company offering their own SaaS product may find it’s more cost effective to outsource 1st line for high volume tickets, but 2nd line is escalated back into the business for its dev team to handle.

Whether you outsource IT support or not, it’s worth splitting tickets between first line and second line support to provide your user community with a more streamlined and effective service. All tickets raised by your users should go first to your 1st line service desk where they are either quickly resolved or triaged and escalated to 2nd line. This ensures you focus the right level of resource, technical expertise and financial investment, on the tickets your user community generates.

Third and fourth line support

In case you’re wondering what 3rd and 4th line IT support involves, here’s a brief overview of the kind of issues and areas they cover:

3rd line tickets: Advanced Server/Infrastructure/Network support. Input into your IT Strategy, Risk Register compilation and ongoing management, Problem Management.

4th line tickets: Escalations beyond your organisation. This can typically include hardware and software vendors or a very specialist or advanced technical support team and IT consultancy.

0 line IT support

Finally, tier 0 (T0), level 0 (L0) or 0 line, refers to self-service IT support. This includes FAQs, knowledge banks, Chatbots and others tools that help your user community find answers to common problems.

Putting in place 0 line support is a great way to reduce demands on your 1st line team as many tech-savvy users are very happy to resolve basic issues for themselves. However, if you’re outsourcing 1st line tickets make sure that your IT service provider is doing more than offering 0 line support. 1st line analysts should bring to the table a wealth of IT expertise, not just the ability to follow self-service step-by-step instructions!

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Switching IT service desk providers in 6 steps

Switching IT service desk providers should not be stressful and disruptive. Your new IT service provider should have a streamlined on boarding process that ensures a smooth transition either from an internal service desk or from another IT outsource provider.

But don’t wait until contracts have been signed before finding out what a provider’s service take on process looks like! Make sure you review it as part of the tendering and selection process so you know you’ll receive a smooth and professional service launch.

How much will a Service Desk cost? Use our cost calculator for a high level quote on how much outsourcing your IT Service Desk to Cloud Business would cost. Click here >

Below are the service take on steps we use to seamlessly transition new clients from their incumbent service desk to our IT support team.

Service desk take on steps

Step 1: Discovery & planning

We’ll work with you, key stakeholders, users and 3rd party suppliers to get a detailed picture of your organisation’s IT environment. Covering everything from hardware, applications & servers, users, groups and access, licensing, risks and vulnerabilities, this ensures we have all the information required to deliver the service you need. Areas covered include:

  • Discovery workshop: identify key requirements for implementation
  • Privilege access: capture and document portal, application & component access
  • Process workshop: incident, request, change approval board and with associated flows & SLA’s

Step 2: Comms & knowledge base set up

We set up your dedicated support DDI, email and customer portal. Knowledge base articles are collected (existing), reviewed and created where needed, and SOP.

Step 3: Self-service portal

We build your unique customer portal and distribute customer portal access to ITSM. We also publish the Service Operation Manual including the standard operating model.

Step 4: Open ticket transfer

At this point we transfer open tickets to ensure service continuity. Gaps in knowledge are also identified and added to SOPs.

We’ll benchmark current user satisfaction prior to launching the service so we can measure your new service against this initial metric.

Step 5: Service launch

Your service goes live!

Step 6: Hypercare transition

We deliver enhanced service management engagement and a dedicated delivery manager to ensure the service take on is stress-free. We’ll conduct your first Service Review and lessons learnt will be embedded in our SOP.

Here’s a visual snapshot of the process:

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Continued Service Improvement

It doesn’t end there. Our continual service improvement programme now starts. Monthly reviews ensure you have visibility on all aspects of the service and we will make recommendations, where possible, on how you can increase cost efficiencies and maximise your technology investment.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about switching IT service desk providers.

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Are you getting the right remote working support from your IT provider?

Efficient and reliable IT support can make or break a business’ productivity; but it’s even more important now that so many employees are working remotely. Before the pandemic, workers in an office environment could lean on colleagues for troubleshooting support if they were having IT trouble or ask a member of the tech department to take a look. Dedicated IT support for many small businesses has often been disregarded, seen as a luxury expense.

With most of the country working from home, good quality remote working support is a necessity for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Remote IT support should be a top priority for your IT provider, and you should be able to rely on them for efficient, remote-specific support around the clock.

How much does outsourcing IT support cost? Find out here >

Benefits of IT support for a remote workforce

IT support focused on remote working can offer key benefits, including:

1. A boost in workforce morale

While some employees thrive in a flexible/remote working environment, others struggle. This is particularly true for those who are less technically inclined. Wrestling with software can cause added stress when under pressure. Expert and easy to obtain support can help employees maintain their motivation and stress less. A knowledgeable support adviser offering the right assistance can also boost confidence in new technologies and help employees learn how to self-serve.

2. Decreased downtime

An IT provider that can offer a fast response to issues around the clock will naturally lead to less downtime for businesses. A timely response from your support function means issues can be addressed and fixed before they escalate. A remote-specific support function should also be available 24/7 in order to maximise employee productivity. Round the clock support can accommodate an increasing number of employees who work outside of the once traditional 9-5.

Other key features of remote-specific support include remote access and monitoring services. Remote access enables a business’ IT support to take control of an employee’s desktop, meaning an issue can be fixed quicker than if support were to talk the employee through the steps. IT support departments that offer monitoring can forecast or prevent issues more efficiently, often eliminating downtime altogether.

3. Expert advice and education

As the world embraces a flexible working era, there’s an increased need for advice and education around remote working set-ups. A good quality IT provider will be able to offer real-time productivity, security, and infrastructure advice.

Your IT provider should also offer education in the form of webinars, content materials and virtual training courses. While not a replacement for expert support, education can equip employees with the knowledge to distinguish between major and minor issues and troubleshoot the latter themselves.

What IT support do you need?

Many IT providers will offer remote working specific support including the services mentioned in this blog, but it’s important that they are of a high standard. Out-of-hours support is of little use, for example, if the person at the end of the phone isn’t able to understand and troubleshoot the problem.

If you’re exploring outsourcing IT support out-of-hours, make sure the service being offered is more than ticket logging and triage. We’re seeing a lot of enquiries from companies that have outsourced 1st line to IT service providers that do no more than reference knowledge banks. When this doesn’t resolve the issue, it’s escalated back to the customers’ technical team for resolution in business hours.

Instead, best practice would be to have self-services options in place so users can access knowledge bank support themselves: and a proactive 1st line out-of-hours service desk who can provide actual support when users need it. This also reduces ticket volumes for your technical team, especially IT support requests that are really below their paygrade.

With the UK government giving no guarantees that we’ll be out of lockdown by spring, getting the right IT support for remote workers should now be a priority. Talk to us to learn more about our remote-specific IT support and how it can help your business maximise productivity and reduce downtime.

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2021: be agile, be positive, be kind

Happy New Year to all our customers, partners, colleagues and blog readers! A new year is typically a time of planning, resolutions and excitement about the future. This year is no different at Cloud Business. Although 2020 was challenging for everyone, and just days into 2021 the UK is back in lockdown, we’re optimistic and continuing to push forward with ambitious plans for 2021.

This year there are 3 important things we’re focusing on: agility, positivity and kindness. Not your typical business objectives, but we believe that these values are essential to support our strategic plans.

Here’s why:

Be agile

Agility is highly desirable at times of change and in 2020 we certainly saw how agile business models helped organisations cope with remote working and the move from on-premise to online. As digital transformation experts, we’ve been at the forefront of supporting our customers’ remote working strategies and helping them get the agility, flexibility and scalability they need.

To us, agility is also about creativity and approaching things from a different perspective. We’ve always been the people who solve our customers’ challenges and that often means changing the way we do things. While our experience and best practice provides valuable insights to draw on for approaching new challenges, we encourage our team to ditch any preconceived ideas and assumptions, and tackle problems with creativity.

Be positive

It’s hard to be upbeat all the time, especially with Covid cases surging and continued economic uncertainty. But positivity is a powerful force which can’t be underestimated. We see proof of this time and time again on our Service Desk. Customers contact us because of an IT issue, sometimes worried, frustrated or feeling negative. Our Service Desk analysts soon turn that around with a positive and proactive response, and the right strategy to resolve their ticket.

Even when it seems quite bleak out there, we’re trying to inject some positivity into all our interactions with customers, partners and colleagues. We want to make sure we do our bit to make your day better.

Be kind

The language of business is changing. Over the last year we’ve seen more emphasis on collaboration, looking after each other and being kind. We’re ‘in it together’ has been a strong message throughout the pandemic, and one of the positive outcomes of remote working is an increased awareness of the importance of work-life balance and self-care.

It’s not always easy when your workforce is working from home to know when someone is finding things tough. But we can all do our best to ensure we look out for each other with meaning. Every contact we have – instant message, ticket update, email or call – will in some way affect the state of the person on the receiving end. We’ve made a resolution at Cloud Business to choose our words carefully to make sure we are respectful at all times, whether we’re talking to colleagues or customers.

2021 is already looking up. The vaccine roll out is a game changer which will truly help us get back to ‘normal’. However, what the pandemic has taught us is the importance agility, positivity and kindness, and we plan to make these our mantra throughout 2021 and beyond.

Small business IT priorities 2021

Small businesses are poised to enter a new year that, for the first time, is focusing on creating fewer in-person connections with customers, rather than more. The rapid digitalisation of the past year has created an environment where SMBs must adapt to remain competitive.

The priorities of small businesses are shifting as a result, towards the creation of secure remote work environments and the necessary adoption of cloud technology. As part of this digital transformation, small businesses must consider several more priorities as they move into a new year.

1. Low-cost artificial intelligence (AI) technology

After the sudden technology adjustments forced upon companies in 2020, many small businesses will need to make up for lost productivity. With additional resources unlikely to materialise, low-cost AI will become even more of a requirement.

A solution like Microsoft Azure offers affordable computer vision, face recognition, and conversational AI services – many of which are built-in to the business offerings. As the digital era progresses, SMBs should start to take greater advantage of these AI opportunities in order to remain resilient; subsidising customer support departments with chatbots, for example.

Another business area AI can have the biggest impact on is logistics. Small retailers could utilise the technology to gain AI-driven insights from their data. Warehouses could predict stock shortages and delivery drivers could benefit from AI-driven knowledge regarding delivery routes.

2. Increased use of data virtualisation technology

Businesses will also look to regain efficiency via data-driven insights. Tools like Microsoft Power BI can make data more useful and actionable. Simple dashboards of customer and sales data enable analyses which ultimately help SMBs focus on the aspects that will have the most impact.

3. Mainstream adoption of cloud collaboration and calling solutions

Microsoft Teams usage increased by 70% to 75 million active users in April, mainly due to the mass shift to home working. Even as workers return to the office, however, that usage has remained steady. As of October 2020, its daily active users had reached 115 million.

Much of this continued growth may be attributed to a shift in mindset, predominantly by smaller businesses. As IT managers realise the efficiency of cloud-based communication and collaboration tools, they become open to investing in those solutions long-term. In addition to efficiency, cloud solutions like Microsoft Teams and Teams Calling solutions, offer flexibility in both in costs and global calling requirements – perfect for SMBs who want to start small and scale.

4. Streamlining the remote onboarding process

Even with the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines underway, SMBs will continue to work remotely until government guidance suggests otherwise. Though organisations have been onboarding remotely for many years, the coronavirus pandemic has increased the volume of workers than need to be brought online in a short period.

As a result, it’s now time for SMBs to prioritise the creation of a remote onboarding strategy that’s efficient, engaging and focused around the benefits that cloud technology can offer.

5. Support remote workers with the right cloud IT support

Cloud productivity apps like Office 365 and Teams come with excellent Level 0 IT support. Knowledge banks and chatbots provide self-service cloud IT support so that users can troubleshoot common problems and access ‘how to’ style content.

However, remote workers also need human IT support in the form of a 1st and 2nd line service desk to keep productivity levels high. Responsive cloud IT support can also boost user adoption of new technologies and new ways of working, ensuring you get good ROI from digital transformation.

Remote workers often feel isolated so it’s really important to have open lines of communication between them and your service desk. As well as ensuring they can contact IT support using their preferred channels (email, phone, support portal etc.), consider introducing engagement feedback tools too. Personalised surveys can help you better understand what support users need to improve the remote working experience.

If you would like to discuss any of the subjects or technology covered in this post, please get in touch. Our Digital Productivity team and Microsoft experts are happy to share their knowledge and experience. Likewise, our Operations team are available to share best practice for supporting your remote workers and providing effective cloud IT support.

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Why technical support is important for user adoption

Technical support via an internal service desk or outsource provider ensures that if your users experience a hitch; their IT issues are resolved in a timely manner.

But one factor that’s often overlooked is how technical support is important for user adoption as well. When new technology solutions are deployed – such as moving workloads to the cloud – most organisations initiate a user adoption programme which typically focuses on training. While this is invaluable for users when they’re first introduced to new ways of working, on-going technical support will help maximise your investment in technology and boost user adoption long term.

Want to find out how much technical support would cost your organisation? Use our cost calculator to get a high level quote >

Tech support is more than resolving IT problems

Usually we think of IT support as where you go when you’re locked out of your account, need to reset a password or can’t get connected to your cloud apps. Problems.

However, it also covers desktop support such as helping users get more from their apps and tools. This year we’ve seen an increase in tickets for this kind of support request, for example “how do I show my screen during a Teams meeting” or “how can I share a file in SharePoint with someone outside my organisation?”

These types of questions and support tickets are not really ‘IT issues’ but more about getting answers that help users be more productive. With many people working from home their normal channels for getting support are not always available – such as asking the tech-savvy colleague that sits opposite them in the office. Which is why we’re now seeing more of these queries being raised as a support ticket.

It’s important that you do provide users with support for queries of this nature – even if they could find the answers on Google – as the time they spend trying to find an answer for themselves impacts on their productivity and user experience. They may also end up finding a work-around that could potentially breach your security policies. For example, downloading data onto their home computer, rather than accessing it securely in your organisation’s IT environment.

Technical support tickets are getting more technical

‘How to’ type questions are normally resolved by 1st line service desk analysts (and many can also be answered through self-service options like knowledge banks.) However, as users have become increasingly more technologically sophisticated, support calls are also becoming more complex.

With users able to resolve simple issues for themselves – thank you Google – many more complex tech support queries can’t be handled by 1st line analysts so need to be escalated to 2nd.

This requires staff with in-depth knowledge of the technology your users have access to, or technical knowledge of your products for customer-facing technical support, and the ability to communicate instructions clearly to users working remotely.

For this reason it’s important to implement all levels of support 1st, 2nd and 3rd, as well as offering 0 line support in the form of self-service solutions. It will keep your users happy, increase user adoption of modern workplace technology or technology products, and have a positive impact on profitability. With the right technical support your employees will be able to get back to work more quickly, they’ll get the benefits of your workplace technology and you’ll get a better return on investment from your IT estate. And with support tickets handled by service desk analysts instead of IT Managers and CTOs, you’ll also save money and free up their time to focus on their core competencies.

As well as different support levels, there are different options to deliver technical support. You don’t have to outsource everything or keep it all in-house. We have customers who outsource 1st line to us, and we escalate 2nd line tickets back to their IT team. We also have customers who outsource all their technical support, customers who outsource 2nd and 3rd to us and handle 1st internally, and customers who also take advantage of out-of-hours support services while handling business hours themselves. This flexibility means you can get the right coverage at the right times.

Make sure your users know how to contact technical support!

A final piece of advice. To successfully align technical support with user adoption you need to make it easy for users to contact your service desk team. If they don’t know how to raise a ticket because you’ve not publicised your support channels effectively, they’ll waste time trying to work things out for themselves or find unwelcome work-arounds.

If you would like to discuss technical support with one of our Operational Leads, please get in touch. Or for a high level quote, use our cost calculator below.

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Keeping remote employees connected and collaborating successfully

Whether your organisation is considering giving employees the flexibility to work remotely even when social distancing restrictions no longer apply, or if you’re currently unable to offer a Covid safe workplace, there are ways to boost productivity and collaboration remotely.

Here we share how to leverage technology for short term and long term successful remote working.

Develop a strategic plan

Does your organisation have a long term strategic of how technology can support your business goals and ambitions? If not, you may find that some of the decisions made about the technology needed to facilitate remote working during lockdown, are not aligned with the direction the business is taking.

We recommend taking stock and exploring what systems and applications you have or need that support business goals and the modern workplace. Then develop a strategic plan that factors in the technology needed to support remote working, hybrid working practices, and provides your organisation the agility needed to respond to unexpected change.

XaaS, everything as a service

In many cases the businesses that successfully transitioned to remote working and business as usual back in March, had already embraced SaaS, PaaS and IaaS models. This gave them the flexibility to scale up, or down, the services they required such as providing more users with access to collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams.

The benefits of the ‘as a service’ model are well known. A shift from capital to operational expenditure (capex to opex) often leads to lower total cost of ownership. Organisations get access to up-to-date technology, with fast implementation times and maintained by service providers that can leverage the economies of scale. Pay-as-you-go provides scalability to meet business requirements and react quickly to change. And they free up your IT team so they have more time and resources to focus on other projects and priorities.

Central digital hub

One of the problems we’ve seen companies struggle with over the last few months is how to keep employees connected with a distributed workforce. This is not just about ensuring employees can communicate and access information, but also have a sense of belonging that is easier to achieve in a physical office environment.

Companies that do this successfully often have a history of remote working and therefore have the tools and well-established processes to promote unity across the workforce. If your organisation has had remote working thrust upon it because of current events, you may not have had time to develop and optimise the infrastructure needed. In fact, it probably hasn’t been a priority with everything else the IT team has had to deal with.

As a result you may now find that different teams have adopted their own tools and processes to keep connected. Perhaps the Marketing department is on Slack, while Sales has discovered Yammer and Finance are relying on a weekly Zoom session.

While there is no right or wrong, and a combination of different tools for different types of communication can work successfully, a central place for all your people to connect and access company information is vital.

A modern corporate intranet creates a central digital workplace to engage employees, promote collaboration and unite a remote workforce. Intranet solutions powered by SharePoint can also help you maximise your investment in Microsoft 365. Content can be aggregated from SharePoint sites so that employees have a single view of the information they need. It can also be used to signpost employees to other collaboration tools, such as Yammer communities for different interest groups or integrate with Microsoft Teams.

24/7 IT support

Proactive and reactive IT support is more important than ever. Remote workers can only get the most out of the technology provided if they have back up should something go wrong or they get stuck. Over the last few months we’ve seen the following trends develop:

Increased demand for IT support: initially we experienced a dramatic spike in demand for support as users unfamiliar with some of the remote working tools they were given, needed more help. This has now levelled off but we’re still seeing higher ticket volumes than this time last year.

Out-of-hours IT support: with many employees continuing to juggle work and family commitments, the IT Service Desk is often required into the evening to support employees working outside of normal business hours.

Self-service support: tech-savvy employees know that if they experience a problem they can often find a solution on the internet. This has increased demand for self-service IT support solutions like ChatBots, and Knowledge Banks. Community forums are also on the increase, perhaps to replace that knowledgable colleague who employees might have previously called on when in an office environment.

If you need guidance to help you navigate the next few months, or to support long term digital transformation ambitions, do get in touch. You can book a free discovery call with one of our digital productivity consultants or speak to any of our subject matter experts about leveraging your technology.

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Renewal of outsourcing contracts: IT service providers

Choosing the right IT partners has never been more important. Most businesses have relied heavily on their IT service provider (or MSP) over the last few recent months, especially for support transitioning users from the office to remote working. Some required set-ups of new cloud services, others needed help getting the most out of existing ones. Whatever the requirements for organisations have been, one thing’s for sure; MSPs have really been put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your IT service provider contract is up for renewal, it’s time to ensure that the providers you partner with can continue to support your organisation’s workforce, objectives and IT environment into the future. During uncertain times, it’s more important than ever that you can trust and rely on your IT service provider.

Is your service desk 4 star? Download our checklist to find out >

Whether you’re in the market for a new partnership, or you’re happy with your existing one, you should be asking the following key questions to make sure they are the right match for your business:

  • Do you have experience working with customers in my sector?

An IT company will probably work across many sectors, but it’s important to know if they have experience of yours. Is their business model adaptable to suit different businesses? Could they cope if your business grew? Understanding how they handle individual customer requirements and business sizes will give you insight into whether it could be a long-term partnership.

  • Who is responsible for taking care of our business and how will we know if that changes?

A good quality IT service provider will have a clear and structured process as an answer to this question. They might assign a specific account manager randomly, or they might match your needs to a particular team member. Whatever their method, it’s important that it’s clear who you are to contact both day-to-day and in an emergency. It is also handy to find out how they would transition you to a new contact if your current one left their business.

During the current pandemic, you should also regularly ask how they are offering increased virtual support in the absence of onsite meetings.

  • What’s your customer retention rate?

Don’t be afraid to ask to look at retention figures and references at any stage of your relationship with your service provider. Customer retention should be high for IT support companies; if they deliver what they say they will, charge a fair price and are easy to communicate with, they are unlikely to lose customers! If their retention rate isn’t what you would expect, is there a reasonable explanation?

  • How can you help us decrease our spend?

This has been a key requirement for many businesses lately. A quality IT service provider will be invested in helping you save money where it makes sense. A good answer should include reviewing your service licencing and usage to ensure you are only paying for what you need. The provider should also take advantage of any offers and discounts and be fully transparent about their pricing. You should also trust them to advise you on what you shouldn’t reduce spend on, like stripping back security layers.

  • What’s the worst disaster you’ve faced recently?

Every IT service provider has dealt with unexpected disasters; finding out how they dealt with and learned from them will give you some valuable insight into how much they care about their customers. If the provider is happy to go into detail and talk through the positives and negatives, it shows they’re honest, open and realistic.

  • How can you help our business successfully work remotely?

COVID-19 has changed the way we work and remote working is now front of mind for many businesses. It’s important to find out what the strategy is for supporting businesses with remote working both now and long-term. If an IT service provider has managed to transition seamlessly to remote working themselves, and can offer you a structured plan, then you know that remote working is a priority for them.

Finding the right IT support company for your business could be the difference between minimal disruption in the event of a disaster, and potentially losing valuable customers.

Our service desk has achieved the SDI 4* accreditation that demonstrates that our business is totally committed to highly efficient, cost effective Managed Services and that we have the focus required to deliver an excellent quality of service

To find out whether your service desk is 4 star download our checklist below, or use it to shortlist a new provider.

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5 reasons you need Out of Hours IT Support

Increasingly companies are extending their IT service desks to offer users out-of-hours IT support. The infographic below explores the 5 key drivers which our clients most often cite as their reasons for outsourcing to a global service desk. Does your organisation have a requirement for out of hours IT support? Have a look to see…

Do you need Out of Hours IT Support?

In summary, here are the most common reasons companies need out-of-hours IT support:

  1. Employees work outside of core business hours – it’s often the more senior members of staff who continue working into the evenings and at weekends. Shift patterns are also a factor as is the increasing demand from employees for more flexible hours. Whether it’s starting early or finishing late, staff can’t be fully productive if they experience IT issues so support is necessary.
  2. Customers need access at weekends and evenings – if your business sells consumer products or services you may find that many of your customers need access to your IT systems outside of business hours. The prime-time for online shopping is at 8pm. Websites and online portals need to be up and technical support should be available if relevant.
  3. Demand for remote working – like flexible working, more people want the option to work remotely either sometimes or regularly. And there are benefits for companies who have remote working policies. When staff work remotely they will often combine this with more flexible hours, working when they are most productive and balancing other commitments around their work.
  4. Your business needs to be ‘always up’ – few companies are really closed at the end of the working day: in a digital world customers may engage with your business at any time of the day or night. To be competitive your IT systems, from email to customer portals, need to be ‘always up’ – otherwise you risk reputation damage and missed opportunities.
  5. Users in different time zones – multinational companies need to provide IT support for their users when they’re active. Even if there’s only 1 hours difference between an overseas market and the UK, there’s a knock on effect on productivity and the bottom line if systems go down or key users experience IT issues.

What are your options?

You don’t have to go all in with a 24/7 service desk. Instead you can keep your existing service desk team for core hours, and outsource out-of-hours IT support to a service desk provider. This negates the need to hire staff out-of-hours (expensive) and shared services means that if you have relatively small ticket volumes outside of business hours this is still an option.

Out of hours IT support can include evenings, night time or both; as well as weekends and Bank Holidays.

If your users are in different time zones and non-native English speakers, consider a multilingual service desk. This has a positive effect on response, resolution times and user satisfaction, as clear communications ensure that service desk analysts understand the issue and impact on the user, and deliver the best possible solution.

Please speak to our service desk team if you have any questions about out-of-hours IT support, contact us or book a discovery call here >

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