Archives May 2020


BT Openreach ready for installs VTSL connectivity provider

As the coronavirus pandemic comes under control in the UK, companies across the country are re-opening for business. Those that have been functioning with skeletal staff, are beginning to operate with a fuller workforce.  And businesses that require a physical presence, such as moving companies and construction companies, are now allowed to visit sites.

BT Openreach is one of these companies. They will start ‘attempting to complete’ fibre orders for customers from the 14th of May onwards.  This is great news for anyone that had their installation delayed due to lockdown, and for those companies that want to upgrade their connectivity in time for everyone’s return to the office.  Because many employees have become use to working in cloud versions of their favourite applications, companies are expected to need more connectivity as they come back to the office.For business owners that aren’t that keen on the idea of upgrading a connection for what may be an empty office for sometime, Openreach are offering a deferred activation date for 100MB or 1GB fibre circuits. The circuit would be installed and then disabled for 90 days or until the business is ready to start using it (whichever is earlier). No rental or connection fee would be payable for the first 90 days.  It isn’t just fibre that seems to be available either. VTSL has recently placed some orders for analogue line installs, and these have been appointed within a week. Previously, Openreach had said they would not be making site visits for non critical infrastructure until after June 1st, but it would seem they are able to now. There are many areas of our lives that will take a very long time to get back to normal – flights and holidays to name a couple – but if Openreach is any indicator, we think telecoms will be back on its feet before you know it.  

IT Support company – how to decide


Armed with a better understanding of the organisations you are dealing with, there are a some common traits, good and bad, which should make the final selection easier. 

What to look for in an IT Support partner

Good, customer focused, outsourcing service providers share many common traits regardless of whether it is for IT, HR, Accountancy or any other professional service.

They are in it for the long term

Look out for any organisation that wants to discuss the longer-term picture for your IT infrastructure and services, particularly to build a 3- to 5-year plan for renewal and improvement. Avoiding any organisation which is only interested in the day-to-day for your IT, as an engaged service provider will want to ensure that over time your infrastructure and service levels improve through their involvement and can only do this by taking an active interest in your organisation and its plans.

Pay particular attention to the service providers who ask you as many questions as they can about your organisation in an attempt to develop a deeper understanding of who you are and how you work. A good IT partner will want to integrate as much and learn as much as possible to be better able to serve, and this will also pay dividends for them in terms of efficiencies they can bring to your service provision.

Flexibility in their business model

A mature service provider will be able to accommodate how you want to work commercially, and be able to shrink-wrap the costs accordingly. On a continuum from fixed costs to timecard-based works they should be able to mix and match how they cost and deliver their services such that it leaves you in complete control over your IT spend. The fee structure and how it can be managed should be crystal clear, and how the non-technical part of the relationship works should be as clearly documented as the technical aspects.

A good service provider may be able to provide total flexibility, providing a fixed cost bedrock for managing infrastructure and scoped support, and allowing the client organisation to consume other works on a transparent timecard basis, and also be able to fix the cost of any piece of work instantly for peace of mind.


When dealing with any service provider there should be complete comfort and clarity when dealing with either the technical, commercial or service level related documentation. Be extremely cautious of any individual or individuals who use technical jargon as a means to baffle, intimidate or obfuscate any aspect of the process. At no point should you not be completely clear about every aspect of the relationship and you should understand all that has been discussed. If you feel that you are being bamboozled by jargon and left feeling that you aren’t in control then show them the door.

What you need to be wary of, and sometimes avoid

Following this guidance should give you a good understanding of which companies to progress and which to avoid however there are a number of recurrent pitfalls to draw your attention to. It is difficult sometimes to understand all of the problems inherent in providing a consistent level of service however there are some key items which are worth avoiding at all costs if you think they’re going to be a problem for your potential IT service partner.

outsourcing cautionNot all the signs that the organisation you are dealing with may not fit are clear, but there are some which stand out.

Supporting Custom software

If you have invested in bespoke software for your organisation then it will be difficult for any third-party support company to take over the maintenance and support of this. You are much better off keeping in contact with the original developer and putting in place some form of support contract, as very few IT service organisations have the capability or desire to support or maintain what can be an incredibly complex and expensive system created outside of their design or control, and with little knowledge as to the standards of quality of the work that went into producing it. If you find an organisation willing to take over an application like this either you are very lucky, they will be very expensive, or they are possibly lying about their ability to do so to win the contract.

Being partners in crime

Avoid any organisation which is willing to cut corners when it comes to software licensing. If you have 100 users and each of those users use a commercial piece of software like Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Office every single one of them needs valid licensing in place, otherwise you are breaking the law. In the bad old days this was difficult to police and the temptation was to only fully licence a small proportion of the user base. These days software houses take the situation much more seriously and it is a trivial matter to detect when licensing has been infringed in this way. If you feel that an organisation is likely to bend the rules, either at your request and with your knowledge or if you simply don’t trust them, then you should have nothing to do with them. Software piracy is simply theft.

Being overly protective of your assets

You should be cautious about any organisation who is not prepared to work with any internal resource that you may have that you want to keep. Sometimes IT support providers want to be the only people involved in the support and maintenance of your users and infrastructure, however with appropriate systems and safeguards in place that should be no issue with working with any existing staff you have. They should be prepared to work and collaborate with your internal resource and if necessary provide training and direct assistance. Some service providers will lock you out of your own systems, with the side effect that firing them becomes a much more daunting prospect. Always remember that, remaining practical about the implications of ill-informed end-user access, they are managing YOUR equipment.


Sometimes IT support organisations have too many generalist staff, meaning they have a skills base of a number of Jack of all trades but no one particular referee or consultant for a technology. It is difficult for them to strike a balance between having their staff being generally useful for clients versus developing niche expertise which isn’t required all the time, however a competent and well utilised IT support provider will be able to balance this effectively and be able to develop a workforce capable of providing both specialist expertise and general IT knowledge.

Varying levels of service

Be wary of organisations which provide many different levels of support (Gold, Silver, Bronze etc.) or complicated service level arrangements based on a differential or tiered fee structure. This simply means that they don’t work as hard when it is not worth as much to them. Any service provider worth their salt will provide the best level of service they can and the most responsive service at all times, and not put in place artificial restrictions based on how much or how little they are being paid. Everything they do should always be on a best-efforts basis. Costs can be managed on any number of bases apart from quality of service, which should be the last thing you tamper with.

Jargon, Jargon, Jargon

As previously mentioned avoid any organisation which relies heavily on the use of jargon and technical terms to promote their expertise or in an attempt to intimidate any prospective clients. It’s just not necessary, and as a wise man once said if you truly understand something difficult you can make it sound simple.

Sales people

Salespeople are often highly polished and presentable and can win your trust and confidence, but are rarely the people that you will end up dealing with on a day-to-day basis for the next five years when dealing with your support requests and IT infrastructure issues. Ideally you want to deal with senior managers within the organisation and potentially even one or two of the people who will ultimately be providing support so you can get a sense early on of the people that you will be dealing with. Some element of sales is always required however it is reassuring to know that the people making the promises are also the people who will have to keep them.


Attempting to identify a good IT services partner can be difficult. There are so many factors to take into consideration, and unfortunately the better IT folk are notorious for being task-oriented and occasionally introvert, whilst IT salespeople (in a potentially high-value industry) tend to be the exact opposite. You should get a good sense from the best IT support providers that they can balance the human and technical aspects of delivering what can be a challenging service. It is a stressful process, having to boil down and reconcile the commercial, technical, and human requirements of trusting your organisation’s data and productivity to an outside party.

If you get it wrong it can be disruptive and expensive, and incredibly frustrating, however if you choose the right IT partner who wants to tie their success to yours and become a member of your team then it can be a tremendously empowering relationship which will help you manage what can be a significant cost, and drive productivity. It could be the beginning of a long and rewarding relationship with an organisation that can help you manage and harness the true power of IT.

Green IT – what is it, and how can you play your part

Environmental experts have warned that fundamental changes will be needed if we want to combat some of the damaging effects technology is having on our planet. We discuss some steps and challenges that will need to be undertaken to reduce the impact IT has on our world and make some sensible and practical suggestions for how you can contribute to your organisation’s Green IT strategy.

Introduction – defining Green IT

“Green IT” can be described as making decisions and buying, managing and disposing of IT and communications equipment in a manner that maximises efficiency and minimises the overall cost to society and the environment, taking into account ecological issues in the overall decision making and management process. It recognises the negative impact technology and its use can have on the world around us, and attempts to improve upon this by factoring in sustainability at each stage of the equipment’s life-cycle.

Current environmental situation in the UK

Compared to the rest of the world, the UK is not considered to be among the worst environmental offenders taking into account the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). In fact, 2018 EPI results show that the UK is the 6th highest performing country (out of 180 countries). However, the approach to greening our IT and reducing the footprint technology has on our environment is a continuous challenge to be met by all and the trend globally is for increased use of, and reliance on, IT with all current research showing the immediate action needs to be taken – by everyone.

How technology is affecting environment

Unfortunately, technology’s effect on the world we live in happens on multiple dimensions from the sourcing of raw materials and the production and distribution of equipment to the energy consumed in their lifetime of use – and then their eventual safe and useful disposal.

At each stage there are choices we can make and actions we can take to minimise, if not mitigate, the impact our consumption of IT has on the environment, and in a wider context the communities it affects.

Raw materials and components

Many of the metals and materials that go into the production of electronic components are extremely toxic, and their mining, refining and production can have catastrophic effects on the local and wider environments. Look for manufacturers that are open about their efforts to source their components and raw materials through partners who carefully manage the process, and who also promote material and component recycling.

An example of what to look for in this regard is an ethical sourcing policy, such as Dells conflict minerals policy:

or Hewlett Packard’s sustainability impact assessments which it publishes on its site

They can be toxic from a social perspective too, as their high value makes them lucrative sources of income for the wrong sorts of people and regimes, particularly in regions were there is conflict or political unrest. Avoid suppliers who obscure, or simply don’t publish, their efforts to reduce the harmful effect IT has.Sites such as the Ethical Consumer rate suppliers according to their recycling, supply chain management and attempts at power management:

The Technology Supply Chain

The vast majority of IT equipment is assembled from components and materials sourced from around the globe, and usually assembled in Asia for shipping to Europe and the US.

Green IT global

The carbon footprint of this distribution network is enormous. Many of the larger brands single source their components or produce the key ones themselves, reducing the miles travelled by a computer and its assembled parts. There is no getting around the fact, however, that producing and supplying electronic equipment locally is simply more expensive, and will be a long-term barrier which will be hard to overcome. Labour, taxes, land, energy and materials are cheaper in countries like China, Vietnam and Indonesia, and their Governments are very keen to remove as many barriers to trade and production as possible, including more relaxed environmental regulations.

Ultimately, choosing more local producers of equipment will be a choice as to how much of a premium you are willing to pay for greener equipment, notwithstanding any other features or variables at play.

Green IT management

With some well-chosen initiatives it is actually possible to reduce costs, increase the reliability of your systems and contribute to the greening of IT. It may seem too good to be true, however reducing your environmental impact can sometimes be a side effect of a drive to reduce costs, and many of today’s emerging trends in IT service provision have been borne out of a need to reduce power consumption and to consolidate and harness the full power of today’s hardware, leading to an overall reduction in carbon emissions and resource usage.

Power Consumption

The amount of energy that our reliance on IT consumes is possibly the greatest problem facing the IT industry today.  Everything IT related depends on a steady, and vast, supply of power and the demand is growing.

The greatest culprits for power consumption are the large data centres, paradoxically hosting the cloud-based services which help organisations reduce power consumption locally by offloading individual organisations’ processing and storage and centralising consumption. These large data centres are at the forefront of the changes which reduce energy usage, such as using low-energy servers, using more intelligent power management software and systems to accurately model and shape usage to exactly match demand and who also face the double whammy of needing to design facilities to better dissipate heat – the more energy a system uses, the more energy is required to remove the heat generated. Less energy used means less energy is required for cooling, and better physical design of systems and facilities means less power consumption overall. These design improvements eventually trickle down to end users as well, maximising their benefits over time.

Green IT power

There are several changes that smaller organisations can make as well to optimise power consumption:

  • Configuring systems to power down when not in use, most usually overnight and quite periods. These systems can be configured to power back on again as needed
  • Implementing 3rd party power management software across the network to centrally manage computers and servers power consumption 
  • Carefully specifying and choosing computer systems to ensure they are not more powerful than necessary, and selecting systems which have been tested to have high energy efficiency. For example, many end user systems ship with video and graphics capabilities which consume more power than the rest of the computer combined – which many never use
  • Moving appropriate services to cloud providers – moving some or all or your data and processing power to more efficient online providers reduces the need to have expensive hardware (and software) in your offices, often doing not much a lot of the time. Often these service providers use a “pay for what you use” model, meaning that when the systems aren’t in use you don’t incur any expenditure, invaluable for some systems which have only light to moderate usage
  • Virtualisation. Consolidating many logical servers onto fewer physical devices as “virtual servers” saves on materials, power consumption and gets the most out of your hardware investment
  • Looking out for industry certification in energy efficiency during procurement such as Energy Star , EPEAT or the EU’s ENERG labelling ensures the equipment has been tested to be efficient
  • Upgrade outdated equipment – old IT equipment often does not run as efficiently, and therefore draws unnecessary power. This needs to be balanced against the benefits of updating, below.

Other ways to combine saving money with reducing environmental harm:

  • Extend the life cycle of equipment: many organisations replace their equipment on a strict 3-4 year rotation, usually in line with accounting and depreciation practices rather than any actual need to replace the underlying computers or infrastructure. Extended warranties are available from most suppliers, and with careful monitoring and management many quality products can last well beyond this lifespan.
  • Upgrade rather than replace: If you feel you need more computing power, its is usually trivial to add extra memory chips to computers, and upgrading older machines to SSD drives gives a profound performance boost. It can be very inexpensive to make meaningful changes to your infrastructure, again prolonging their usefulness. Look for modularity and upgradability at the outset when purchasing your equipment – some computers, for example Small Form Factor computers, intuitively look like they should consume less power but often consume more, and can’t easily be upgraded later
  • Print only when needed: printer accounting software and sensible policies can discourage unnecessary printing. Many people print documentation out of habit, not necessity.

The green disposal of IT equipment and computers

At the end of the useful life of your IT equipment, current regulations (the WEEE directive) stipulates for electrical and electronic goods, in this case your IT equipment, that “Reduction is achieved through various measures which encourage the recovery, reuse and recycling of products and components” in order to reduce the amount of potentially hazardous waste that is sent to landfill. There is plenty of information available online.

Green IT recycling

When your ICT reaches the end of its useful life, make sure you securely remove or erase any data from its storage media and then check for an authorised (and reputable) WEEE collection organisation to collect and dispose of your equipment responsibly. Its a tricky area, as producers try to avoid the sometimes high cost of collecting and recycling equipment, but check with your supplier that you may be able to have old equipment (and packaging, another source of problems in the IT industry) taken away when new equipment is delivered.

Challenges of Green IT

Whilst it is easy enough to say you can make some of the above changes in the workplace and “hey presto, we’re green!” it isn’t often as easy that. There are a number of challenges that need to overcome before a green-friendly approach can properly embed itself:

  • The switch can be expensive. There is no doubt that replacing old PC’s and servers in order to ensure they run as power efficiently as possible is going to cost money in the short term, and migrating to the cloud or virtual systems comes with costs too
  • Companies that use resource intensive applications (such as 3D modelling software like Autodesk) are always going to need highly specified, and power hungry, workstations. Sometimes there is no easy way to reduce the footprint of your IT requirements
  • Going paperless or cloud based comes with privacy risks. Whilst reducing the amount of paper used in the office can have many benefits, storing data online instead can risk hackers gaining access to it illegitimately and thus potentially sensitive data can be breached.
  • Product prices could rise. Ethically sourcing materials as well as improving designs for better power efficiency all come with a cost, and replacing old equipment with new may encounter a premium from suppliers as they capitalise on the new environmentally-friendly product market
  • Getting employees on board. Having an eco-conscious strategy and policies in place is worthwhile, however ensuring everyone thinks it is a good idea, and adheres to the policies and plan, may be difficult. It will inevitably involve some change and inconvenience, and some will take some convincing that it will have any impact at all. Educating individuals is invaluable as it will help them understand the importance of taking care of the environment, not just for yourself, but future generations, however some hold deep seated beliefs (or disbeliefs) about the environment and whether “Green technology” is even a worthwhile reality
  • Overcoming the futility perception. There is a common misconception that only big companies and global enterprises can actually make a difference, and that at the SME level any efforts are just potentially expensive box-ticking exercises. Nothing could be further from the truth – in the end demand drives change, and if everyone scrutinises the services they receive and make informed procurement and management choices that factor in environmentally considered issues then over time every enterprise, small and large, contributes to a better overall picture for our and future generations.


Choosing to spend more time and potentially money to play your part in making your organisation’s IT greener can be a difficult one to make a business case for, however it can be offset by sensible choices in asset management policies and power consumption management. Overall, we should aim for a net positive on all fronts, including monetarily if planned well, and in the longer-term aim to minimise and mitigate our impact on the planet. Eventually it may become a more forceful matter for regulatory compliance anyway, as the restrictions and obligations placed upon larger enterprises trickle down to others in the commercial ecosystem.