Meet the Team

Chapter One, Ashley Woodward

“If it’s not working, you may as well try to fix it. You can’t make it any worse.”- Ashley Woodward

As a running IT company of 22 years, we thought it’s time to give you a little insight to the people who work here, what they do and more excitingly, what kind of potato they would be!

Ash is our project manager whose day to day consists of, you guessed it, managing projects!

He has worked with us for just over 11 years, so he knows the ins and outs of the company and how everything runs but more importantly, knows how to make everyone’s teas and coffees.

Jokes aside, he is a busy man with planning projects, assessing risks, communicating with clients and staff, staying on schedule and keeping team morale and motivation up.

We asked our staff 5 important questions to help you get to know us in a fun way,

Favourite TV show? Grand Designs is an all time favourite, but Schitts Creek always makes me laugh.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? It would have to be a lovely Sunday roast.

Favourite drink? Some sort of cider, preferably drank in the sun.

Three things you’d take on a desert island? A flint stick, because I hate being cold. A radio, because I hate silence and a massive bag of bread because, well, I love bread.

What form of potato would you be, given the chance? Definitely a jacket potato, it may look hard on the outside but on the inside, its a big softie.

“The path we have taken, and are taking. I have worked with Phil (director) for a very long time, seeing us grow and develop as a team and company means the world to me. We wouldn’t be anything without the people who work with us”

Ashley Woodward, on what he loves about AIT.

You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook or even see what we’re up to on TikTok– @ait_nottingham

The importance of Cloud Computing in Education; Why switch to the Cloud?

Cloud computing has made a significant impact over the last few years on the education sector. It is changing the way students learn, teachers teach and educational institutions operate. More and more we are seeing Schools and Trusts wanting to centralise their IT systems and switch to the cloud; whether that be a Hybrid Cloud or Private. Thanks to cloud computing, it makes it possible for Schools & MATs to leverage superior resources that they could otherwise maintain, and makes it easier for students, teachers and staff to operate remotely.

Cloud computing isn’t just about ‘moving to the cloud’ in terms of data and management, there are so many more advantages which are often overlooked; however here at Advanced IT Services they’re why we think cloud computing is the natural next step for Schools in their IT provision.

Reduce costs & maximise budgets

A decade or so ago, educational institutions had to invest hundreds of thousands per licence for their software which needed to be repurchased whenever there was a more recent version. Today thanks to Software-as-as-service, it makes it possible to pay low monthly costs as opposed to expensive licences.

There’s also the added benefit with Cloud computing that more often than not an intuition will employ a company to maintain and monitor their cloud services which means Schools will get the very best access to knowledge and expert support. So put simply, it means Schools can really make the most of their IT budgets and develop long term strategies.

Remote Learning

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Schools have had to effectively overnight ensure their remote-learning strategies were able to cope with new found demand. During the first lockdown, we remember well those first few days of working round the clock to ensure all our Schools had everything they required to enable effective remote learning and staff collaboration. Cloud computing enables institutions to always have everything they need readily available, in a secure protected environment.

Collaboration

Cloud computing can be great to bring teams together, share lesson plans, class martials and knowledge base; encouraging collaboration either across one school or multiple if you’re part of a Trust. It gives everyone the opportunity to achieve more and become more productive through making learning more flexible overall.

Security

All data store in the cloud is encrypted which means it’s much harder for hackers to intercept files and data, and most providers will offer monitoring and back-up services as standard. Schools will find cloud computing to be inherently more secure through their providers, as most have their own dedicated Data Centres. Through hybrid-cloud solutions, institutions can not only centralise their IT networks but create secure environments for sensitive data to remain not only secure, but always compliant with the latest regulations of DfE guidance.

Scalability

With little hardware involved, it’s really easy to scale up or down depending on the School or Trusts requirements; which means as things change you can too with little hassle or disruption to learning.

The Cloud is becoming a necessity

Switching to the cloud is going to become a virtual necessity as the world becomes more remote. With many employees working remotely today, students are sure to follow. Cloud computing is not just powerful, but also simple, easy to use, and affordable. Many institutions are going to be switching over to cloud infrastructures overall, if they haven’t already.

For schools and universities, cloud solutions can make it easier to give the students the education they deserve. It’s a responsibility for education professionals to look more deeply into the importance of cloud computing in education, and how it could potentially help them.

If you’re School is looking to switching to cloud computing, our team are here to help consult or plan your migration towards a centralised IT infrastructure. Get in touch and see how we can help.

Russia-Ukraine: Should your Business or Organisation be worried about a Cyber Attack?

Rising tensions between Russia and the Ukraine have significantly escalated over the past few days, and as such the GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has urged UK organisations to ‘bolster their online defences’; we ask how protected is your business or organisation from any Cyber Attack?

Last week Ukrainian banking and government websites were briefly knocked offline by a spate of DDoS attacks, which the UK & US have said were carried out by Russian hackers (something which Russia has denied) however there are now rising concerns the same type of attacks could be targeted to UK companies and organisations as tensions continue to rise and sanctions are imposed.

Ensuring your IT network is sufficiently protected against any form of Cyber Attack is paramount, not only do Cyber Attacks compromise your data, it also can deeply impact both user experience & trust…and of course your bottom line. The longer a network remains offline; data retrieval and longer term damage become more likely. In the past 12 months alone, 65% of UK businesses reported some kind of Cyber Attack upon their business, and its estimated to cost UK businesses and organisations in excess of £30 billion a year.

By using a managed IT provider, you can mitigate the risk of a cyber attack and benefit from the latest software technologies, data protection and infrastructure via leading team of experts. Usually the cost of implementing a managed IT provider is actually much more cost effective, and you’ll then have the peace of mind knowing that your business or organisation is fully protected should the worst happen.

Over the past year we’ve been working with all our clients to ensure that they’re fully defended and protected against even the most hostile of attacks. We offer a wide range of cyber security solutions for Schools, Ogranisations and Businesses including:

Advanced IT Services can conduct a free cyber security review for your business or organisation with absolutely no obligation. Simply get in touch with our team and we’ll prepare a full report highlighting potential weaknesses in your IT network.

Why should your School or Business move to Managed IT Support?

It’s a question that our new clients always ask when first looking at the option of moving to fully managed IT support, and one which is met with apprehension and nervousness at the potential costs involved. However these fears are usually left unfounded once Schools and Businesses make the switch to outsource their IT services.

With most schools and businesses being IT-reliant, it means that managing the security & infrastructure is a full time task, along with ensuring the reliability and functionality of the network for end-point users. At Advanced IT Services, our clients are at the heart of everything we do…and we are always driven to tailor managed solutions for your School and Business which genuinely fit your needs; simply because we understand that no two businesses or schools are ever the same.

We over 3 core categories of IT Support services, from On-Demand IT Support, Remote Support and Fully Managed IT Support. Depending on your requirements and needs, one category may suit your School or Business better; but what are the benefits of Managed IT Support?

Keep your data Safe & Secure

Loosing IT capabilities due to technical, human error or natural disasters for any amount of time leads to downtime for your staff and users which can often lead to devastating effects. Data is the crux of many Businesses and Schools and if you suffer data loss or data breaches, you may only realise how important it is when its too late. Our latest cloud-based solutions mean we manage clients data so its safe and secure, regardless of what disruptive event may occur.

Enhance your Cyber Security

Did you know that over 80% of cyber attacks are aimed towards small businesses, and almost half of UK small companies have experienced some form of cyber attack within the last 12 months. The increase in cyber attacks and intensity of their impact means that there has never been a more crucial time to ensure your IT systems are being proactively managed and monitored 24/7/365.

Via outsourcing your IT provision, you’re ensuring the safety of your IT systems because we are always keeping up to date with the latest technologies, have a support team on site 24/7/365 and constantly investing into the newest software protections.

Reliable & Performance driven IT

Streamlining your IT Operations, whether that be across multiple sites, remote working solutions or in-house means you always need to ensure planned maintenance and updates should always be central to your IT strategy. By outsourcing your IT systems, we remove this stress from you and take care of everything which means your staff and users can always rely on your systems working without waiting for new updates to install. We provide our of hours services to ensure your systems are guarded against any problems that may arise around the clock. Thanks to our fully owned UK data centres, our continuous investment into our own infrastructure and networks mean that you’ll benefit from being part of the AIT client base and always have access to the latest updates, software and tech as they arise.

Your Expert Support Team

Our experts are an eclectic bunch with a plethora of knowledge within the IT sector and specific industry knowledge ranging from education, ecommerce to finance and insurance. What does that mean for you? Well, it means you always have access to an expert support team 24/7, 365 days of the year! As more businesses and schools embrace remote working, we work with you to ensure users are always empowered and your IT networks can easily support remote working options. And you’re always safe in the knowledge that we support you, with no request or query ever being too big or small.

Cost

There is a common myth that outsourcing your IT support can be a costly and laborious experience, but over 65% of our clients reported direct savings within the first 6 months of becoming an AIT client. Why? Our cloud based solutions, software partnerships and data centres mean we always offer the most competitive pricing along with exemplarily service and commitment to your School or Business. Our team will work with you to assess your needs, survey your sites and ensure that your tech is both future proof and that we build a solution which maximises your IT budget whilst never compromising on performance and service. We’ve also partnered with some of the leading leasing partners which means should you require system upgrades or new tech, we’ll get you some of the best leasing deals available.

You’ll find that outsourcing your IT management will streamline and simplify your systems whilst optimising their performance…whilst usually getting the most from your budgets! If you’d like to learn more about what Advanced IT Services can offer your school or business, get in touch with our team.

Call our team on: 0845 094 9170

Virus Victims: Cryptolocker Ransomware

What is a Cryptolocker Ransomware Virus?

There has been a virus attack which took place and was a Crypto Locker virus. A Cryptolocker virus is a Trojan horse which misleads users and disguises its true intent. This Trojan horse will infect your computer and encrypt your files and are locked. There are only two keys, one is a public key which is used by the hackers to encrypt your data and the other is a private key. The private key is used to decrypt the files and this is the key that is used as a ransom since the victim is told they need to pay a certain amount to get the private key to restore their data otherwise the hackers will destroy the victim’s data.

Common Methods of Infection

Traditionally the most common method is through downloading attachments from emails that are disguised as familiar file type such as *.doc but have an *.exe extension which is hidden. Once this has been downloaded, it opens and activates the virus but your machine will appear to run normally until all files have been encrypted. One other way is through download prompts on websites for plug-ins which operate in the same way the aforementioned does. The Trojan horse cannot replicate itself which is why the methods mentioned are all downloads.

Who Were Affected?

Reported in the news, the ransomware attack has hit many different companies including the Irish NHS. We were hit with the same virus on May 14th, the virus targeted our exchange servers but thanks to our practices in place for passwords and internet shutdowns, only a minor number of servers were hit. We quickly rolled back to snapshots of the affected servers so only a very small number of emails were lost on the Friday night. After an extensive check of all our servers in our VM environment, no other servers were corrupted and all systems were operational by midnight on Friday 14th May. However, companies such as Pipeline in the USA and the Irish NHS are still without services.

Given the frequency of virus attacks lately, we are offering a free cyber security check to ensure your network is safe and secure. Click here to find out more.

Our New Off-Site Backup

April sees the commissioning of AIT’s New Offsite Backup Facility.


INSTALLATION

The facility in question was in a previous life a O2 telecoms site, after the handover from O2 to AIT in November works have been underway to install two 1Gbps capacity wireless links to our Main DC at George Spencer.

Each link is a Ubiquiti link using both the 24Ghz and 5Ghz band to give full redundancy and reliability.


TESTING

After installing the first backup server in March (a 200tb storage array made up of 10tb drives), testing on the link capacity as well as the servers and writing capacity have now been complete and starting to hold live backup data of our servers.


FUTURE

The next set of backup servers will be installed later this year after they have been decommissioned from our old facility and rebuilt with new 10tb drives.

This facility has a dedicated power supply and UPS on site as well as full air-conditioning and alarm systems all sealed behind a half tone door with a custom manufactured lock for extra protection.

Gives a good morning view for one of our technicians

De-Commissioning Washington

Today we say farewell to our oldest Domain Controller, Washington. The server was our original Domain Controller and the last device running Windows Server 2003 in our infrastructure. With its removal from the cluster we can now raise our forest functional level, adding extra features to the Domain.

Department for Education: Malware Misfortune

Recently there has been news circulating that a few of the Department for Education (DfE) laptops, that are being distributed to disadvantaged children to help with schooling, have had a virus on them. The government scheme enabled disadvantaged children to access lessons from the comfort of their own home during school closures across the country and there are currently over 1.2 million devices that have been distributed with the Department for Education being on track to meet its target of 1.3 million. The virus is called Gamarue and is a worm which had been previously identified by Microsoft in 2012. Gamarue is a malware botnet where infected devices communicate to Gamarue servers to harness click-bait fraud and steal confidential information such as credit card details. The virus was found to be contacting a server in Russia whilst active in a Bradford school.

What Do We Think?

We believe that because the DfE laptops were refurbished, there was a higher chance any malware could have been present but it unfortunately turned out to be Gamarue. However, you would think that wiping the data from the devices before delivery would be a standard procedure since they are for disadvantaged children. We at Advanced IT Services thankfully haven’t encountered any laptops with the virus especially since it only affected a minor number of laptops. Nevertheless, it is still invasive, infectious and one of the most severe malware strains still around today. One common way Gamarue penetrates your machine is through spam emails with attachments and it makes changes to browser settings add toolbars and even download files directly onto your machine’s registry. The best way, in our opinion, to get rid of such viruses is to completely wipe the devices or use a notorious anti-virus software such as Malware Bytes. However, Cyber Security is now a key part of any organisation and we can make the process of implementing it easier than ever before; find out how here.

Due to the sheer volume of devices and the lack of time and preparation, it is understandable that things may have been missed; everything, in retrospect, is obvious. However, it feels like the government is just throwing money at the Education sector and expecting everything to cope which is not the case. Every school and educational setting is different and all of the guidance given reflects that which is why it is so vague because the head of each educational setting should then determine how the advice can be applied to them. One the other hand, it has been an extremely difficult time for everyone but it has definitely changed a lot of perspectives on many different ideas such as working and education.

Building Our New Data Centre

6 years ago today, our director visited 2BM to talk about the possibility of them quoting for and building our own specialised data centre, so we can better support our clients across the Spencer Academies Trust.

6 years on and we are working with a range of Primary & Secondary schools across the East Midlands region, providing centralised connectivity in our very own data centre.

For more information about how our data centre can help us support you or for a tour of the facility, get in touch with us today.