Amicus ITS completes MBO

Amicus ITS MBO

Award winning Hampshire IT company, Amicus ITS, has announced the completion of a management buyout (MBO) by its Senior Management Team, led by Managing Director, Steve Jackson.

“The MBO transition will give us further flexibility to design new and exciting IT managed services tailored to our corporate and healthcare clients’ needs, as we keep at the forefront of new and emerging technologies.” 

Steve Jackson added:  “This is an exciting moment in the company’s 27 year history and represents a huge opportunity for the business to build on our reputation as one of the UK’s leading managed service providers. We have a very clear vision about our plans for the company’s strategic growth and expansion over the next five years and beyond.  We are actively expanding our strong partner base across the UK and are already working with other like minded organisations who share our values and vision to deliver improvements in the IT and security environments for businesses nationally”.

“Having expanded over the last five years, the company is going from strength to strength. This gives us the stability to underpin our future plans for strategic collaboration and growth. This MBO gives us even greater flexibility to design and bring to the market new and exciting IT managed services which truly meet and exceed our clients’ existing and future expectations”.   

By way of illustration Amicus ITS recently launched Cloud First, its all-encompassing IT support service dedicated for SMEs which includes a highly flexible and secure backup solution. Amicus ITS is leading the way in cyber security threat management and prevention across the UK.  The company was awarded official Government supplier status in 2015 for providing IT managed Services within the public sector, which is already yielding a number of sizeable opportunities and is also a confirmed supplier on the G-Cloud 7 digital marketplace for Cloud services.

Steve Jackson continued: “Despite the exciting developments within the organisation, it is very much business as usual. I am pleased to say that we will continue to work closely with Care UK who remain a valued customer of ours.  We provide the full spectrum of IT Managed Services for 10.4 million people in the UK for Out Of Hours services, illustrating our enterprise credentials.  The core of our business remains our 24×365 UK Service Desk and Network Operations Centre staff who monitor and support all our corporate and healthcare customers. They are the true backbone to keeping our customers’ mission critical and life critical services always-on. Having quality systems to leverage is clearly an advantage, but having a team of skilled and trained staff with eyes and ears always on, is a great differentiator”. 

“By understanding and aligning ourselves with our customer’s business strategies we aim to provide the best current and future support as their trusted partner in IT and new technologies”.

Anyone wishing for further information or details about any of ours services should call Sales Director, Les Keen on 02380 429429.

 

The Death of Flash

flash-logo

Adobe Flash, released in 1996 brought with it animations, games and of course ads to a mostly static web. The technology was greeted with almost universal praise and adoption by developers and web surfers alike.   Nowadays the software tool has a less favoured reputation; it’s unable to run on most mobile devices, consumes high amounts of devices’ processing power and battery life – and then of course there are the many security issues around Flash.

The adoption of Flash has decreased throughout the years but its most noticeable set-back was arguably the unveiling of Apple’s iPhone, bringing with it a new world of mobile internet which left Adobe behind technically, despite their willingness to be included.

Steve Jobs published his Thoughts on Flash on April, 2010 detailing why Apple don’t and won’t allow Flash onto their hugely successful iPhone, iPad and iPod. His main reason being that the mobile era is all about low powered devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where ‘Flash falls short’.

In August 2015 Amazon announced it would no longer be accepting Flash ads on its website.  This week Google announced, from the 30th June 2016 it will stop accepting Flash ads on its AdWords and DoubleClick networks and from 2nd January 2017 it won’t display any Flash ads on Display Network or DoubleClick.    Google has stated “We’ve rolled out tools to encourage advertisers to use HTML5, so you can reach the widest possible audience across screens.”     This move is likely to be the killing blow for Adobe’s Flash platform, with Google being the most prominent web ad provider around.

Adobe itself has come around to support open web standards, now providing its own Flash-alternative, HTML5 tools, for developers to create HTML5 content for both desktop and mobile.

With the almost inevitable demise of Flash in sight and modern, mobile-friendly web standards likes HTML5 ready to take over, appreciation of Adobe’s early efforts in making the web a more animated place should be acknowledged, though few will mourn all the security headaches that came with it.

EE retains its brand in the new BT world

EE

With BT’s recent purchase of mobile giant EE receiving clearance from the Competition & Markets Authority, we have been curious to see how EE would fit into BT and whether they would lose their identity and become part of BT Mobile?

Following the announcement of the £12.5 billion acquisition on 29th of January, BT has announced the first details on the new organisational structure which comes into place from April 2016.

For EE this means being split in half:

•         The first half is led by EE’s new CEO Marc Allera and comprises of their mobile, broadband and TV services. This part of EE becomes BT’s sixth standalone line of business and interestingly will retain control of its branding, network assets and retail stores.
•         The other half of EE is its business operations, which will now be spun off into a new business unit, BT Business and Public Sector unit which will replace the current BT Business.

So it appears, at least for the short term, that both BT mobile and EE’s mobile offerings will be managed by distinct business groups within BT, each with their own brands, tariffs and marketing – and both being competitively sold to consumers.

“We will operate a multi-brand strategy with UK customers being able to choose a mix of BT, EE or Plusnet services, depending on which suits them best,” said BT CEO Gavin Patterson.

One wonders whether one of the underlying decisions in retaining the EE identify (perhaps a rather canny one in our view), may be down to EE’s brand strength. Cited against the more unwieldy BT Mobile brand, EE’s is perhaps the better recognised, which in fickle markets can cause change – and with the mobile market dominance they hold, any churn could be substantial.  Either way, we’ll see how well they continue to serve their respective customer base and how much more competitive their offerings might become in this new world of Chinese wall telecommunications.

The cost to TalkTalk of the 2015 cyber attacks

In our post of 31st December 2015, we discussed the lessons learned from the TalkTalk cyber attack debacle.  Now TalkTalk have published their Q3 results, offering a truer picture of the costs to date.

The original emergency damage forecast in November by the telecomms company was £30-£35 million (largely for unconditional free upgrades for customers and £15 million in reduced trading revenue).  This has now been doubled to £60 million.

Additionally, and of little surprise, there has been significant reputational loss, resulting in the loss of 4% of their customerbase (some 101,000 customers), following the attack.

Recovery will be slow and despite City share prices rising 5% this morning, this follows a 30% drop following the attack at the end of October 2015.

This, in a week where it was revealed that two other organisations felt the pain of attack:

•      Lincolnshire County Council’s systems shut down for four days following a malware attack contained within an email and a document that was opened in error by staff.  The £1m ransom was not paid and staff have been working off paper all week.  CIO Judith Hetherington-Smith said: “People can only use pens and paper, we’ve gone back a few years. [The attack] happened very quickly. Once we identified it we shut the network down, but some damage is always done before you get to that point – and some files have been locked by the software.  A lot of the files will be available for us to restore from the back-up.”

•      HSBC was also hit on Friday 29th January when customers couldn’t access their personal bank accounts. It was a DDoS attack and whilst HSBC sought to assure customers on Twitter stating they “successfully defended their systems“, the process to restore then caused considerable disruption for their customers. The timing couldn’t have been worse for many; the first pay day after Christmas, and the last working day before the tax return deadline.

What this amply illustrates is the urgent need for businesses to change their behaviours and instead of relying on a dim hope that they won’t be the target of an attack at some point in the future, businesses should assume they will be attacked.

NB.  Whatever the size of your company you are at risk.  So ensure that proper IT governance steps are undertaken through pen testing, robust cyber defence software, allied to round the clock monitoring and threat intelligence to put yourself in a stronger position defensively and an agile stance for responses.  That way you start to stem financial loss and costly reputational damage.

talktalk_logo_0

European Commission announces Safe Harbour replacement

With the expiry of the Safe Harbour Agreement 2000 coming to end on 31st January 2016, businesses globally can now breathe a sigh of relief as a new set of guidelines on international data transfers obligations has been agreed, called the ‘EU-US Privacy Shield’.

This followed last October’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that Safe Harbor, the 15-year-old pact between the EU and the US, was invalid.

Under the EU Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC), EU Member States may only transfer personal data to a third country for processing if that country “ensures an adequate level of protection”.   The European Court of Justice found that Safe Harbor did not ensure such a level of protection.

The last few months have been confusing for data controllers and processors. Now, however, shortly after the expiration of the 31 January deadline set by the Article 29 Working Party – the body responsible for data protection in the EU – the European Commission has announced that the EU-US Safe Harbor agreement will be superseded by something called the ‘EU-US Privacy Shield’.

EU-US Privacy Shield

  • Strong obligations on companies handling Europeans’ personal data and robust enforcement:

US companies wishing to import personal data from Europe will need to commit to robust obligations on how personal data is processed and individual rights are guaranteed. The Department of Commerce will monitor that companies publish their commitments, which makes them enforceable under US law by the US Federal Trade Commission. In addition, any company handling human resources data from Europe has to commit to comply with decisions by European DPAs.

  • Clear safeguards and transparency obligations on U.S. government access:

For the first time, the US has given the EU written assurances that the access of public authorities for law enforcement and national security will be subject to clear limitations, safeguards and oversight mechanisms. These exceptions must be used only to the extent necessary and proportionate. The US has ruled out indiscriminate mass surveillance on the personal data transferred to the US under the new arrangement. To regularly monitor the functioning of the arrangement there will be an annual joint review, which will also include the issue of national security access. The European Commission and the US Department of Commerce will conduct the review and invite national intelligence experts from the US and European Data Protection Authorities to it.

  • Effective protection of EU citizens’ rights with several redress possibilities:

Any citizen who considers that their data has been misused under the new arrangement will have several redress possibilities. Companies have deadlines to reply to complaints. European DPAs can refer complaints to the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission. In addition, Alternative Dispute resolution will be free of charge. For complaints on possible access by national intelligence authorities, a new Ombudsperson will be created. It’s also not yet known when the new framework will be put in place. (Knowing EU bureaucracy, it’ll be a while yet.)

And just a reminder about our side of the Pond…

EU General Data Protection Regulation
The EU Data Protection Directive – which informed the Safe Harbor agreement – is soon to be superseded by the EU General Data Protection Regulation, a pan-European law that will harmonise data protection across EU member states.

  • All organisations that collect, process or store information will have to meet the GDPR’s requirements, or face penalties of up to €20 million – or 4% of turnover, which in the case of global Internet companies could be billions.

Implementing an information security management system (ISMS), as described in the international best-practice standard ISO 27001, is the sensible route to compliance.

EU-US

 

What does the future of Windows Mobile look like?

Lumia 950 XL
Microsoft who originally launched their first smartphones back in 2002, compared to both Apple and Google (launching in 2007 and 2008 respectively) have been in the smartphone game a lot longer than their main competitors, but looking at their current marketshare they look more like the underdog.

By 2007, Microsoft’s smartphone platform was the most popular in the US, but this quickly faded after Apple and Google entered the market.  Today, these numbers are at an all-time low with US marketshare of Windows Mobile (and Windows Phone) down from 4.8% in early 2015 to just 1.6% at the end of December 2015. In the UK, Microsoft is in a much healthier position of 9.2% with iOS at 38.6% and Android taking the lions share with 51.9%.

With Microsoft continuing to struggle in its home turf and its marketshare slipping away in spite of the launch of its new Windows Mobile 10 platform and phones late last year, the question again arises – what does the future of Windows Mobile look like to Microsoft?

Despite both the loss in marketshare and revenue from Windows Mobile, taking a look at Microsoft’s more recent tablet-laptop hybrid Surface Pro may provide some answers.

In their recently announced quarterly fiscal results they revealed an impressive $1.35 billion in revenue generated by their Surface line, up from $1.1 billion the same time last year.  The now very successful Surface line is headed by Panos Panay who also recently took the lead on their Windows Mobile division. The most recent Microsoft flagship phones the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL launched under his leadership, however they would have been designed and developed before this time. On its announcement, the new feature which had the most time under the spotlight was Continiuum, which lets you plug up the phone to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and use it like a PC. The apps you have access to in this mode are the same as those available when using a phone and these will scale as needed to the screen plugged in.

Looking ahead to where the future of Windows Mobile lies, there have been rumours for some time of Microsoft working with Intel to get Windows Mobile working on x86 processors (the same ones that power their laptops and PCs) and even more recently x86 support was listed on their manufactures design guideline specification for Windows Mobile, although this information has since been pulled from their site.

With Panos Panay currently developing future Windows Mobile devices, alongside the next Surface models, we may see the next Windows Mobile flagship branded with the Surface stamp, reserving the Lumia name for both low and mid-range devices in the future.

A Surface flagship phone could see a Surface-like premium metal build and include an x86 processor, meaning when in Continuum mode, it can also run full PC applications in addition to scaling mobile apps.  As well as using full PC apps on your phone, a more unified brand could make Microsoft flagship phones easier to market and sell to consumers with the simpler name ‘Surface Phone’ compared to the current ‘Lumia 950’.

The future of Windows Mobile may look bleak now, especially in the US, but with such a heritage with smart devices and the very successful launch of Windows 10 on PCs they can’t be dismissed.