Westlake IT is delighted to announce the company has been awarded Microsoft’s Silver Partner Status. Westlake IT now joins the top 5% of Microsoft partners worldwide who have met the requirements for Silver Partner status.

To earn the Silver Partner status, Westlake IT has demonstrated consistent capability, expertise, and commitment in three core areas; Cloud Platforms, Cloud Productivity and, Collaboration and Content.

Chris Apperley, MD explains. “Cloud Platforms are virtual servers. We have helped a number of businesses streamline their on-premise IT infrastructure by migrating physical servers to virtual ones, saving money and improving operational performance and security.

“Cloud Productivity and, Collaboration and Content describe the benefits delivered by Office 365 and its family of applications including Email, SharePoint and Teams etc. Our proven track record in migrating customers to Office 365 and deploying SharePoint has been instrumental in helping us earn Silver Partner Status.”  

Westlake IT has grown significantly over the past two years, increasing turnover by 57% and its client base by 78%.

Susannah Jeffery, Westlake IT’S Business Development Director comments on some of the reasons for Westlake IT’s success. “We consistently punch above our weight, winning tenders against much bigger providers. We do this because we combine big business expertise with small business flexibility, friendliness and approachability.”

“Our clients have the best of both worlds. For example, we know our clients want the peace of mind that our Helpdesk delivers by using the latest ticketing, project management and reporting software, but they also like the fact that we are open to changing the way we work to suit their needs. ”

Call Chris or Susannah today on 023 92007850 to talk through how Westlake could transform your IT.

The Brexit date is currently set for 31 January 2020 and while Boris Johnson has already agreed a deal with the EU, it still needs to be approved by Parliament.

If Parliament approves Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill then the UK will exit the EU on 31 January 2020. Trade talks with the EU would begin soon after. If a new trade deal is ratified by December 2020 then the UK will begin its new relationship with the EU in January 2021. If a trade deal is not agreed then the UK will have two choices: Extend the transition period or leave the EU without a deal in January 2021.

Clearly while we now have more certainty that Brexit will happen, there is still a long way to go. Trade deals can take several years to negotiate and an 11-month time frame is very tight. This time next year we will yet again face another crunch point. If, by December 2020, the UK has failed to agree a new trade deal with the EU then the UK would need to decide whether to ask for an extension to trade agreement negotiations or default to trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms.

The good news is that the possibility of a no-deal Brexit early next year is less likely, but it’s not off the table. Should the UK fail to agree a new trading relationship with the EU and we exit without one in place in 2020, it will very much feel like a no-deal Brexit scenario.

Staying informed and putting plans in place remains pivotal for SMEs throughout 2020 and beyond.

When it comes to dealing with uncertainty, SMEs do have size on their side. Being smaller than their corporate counterparts, they are more agile and can adapt quickly to changing market conditions. But there is a flip side. SMEs that rely on cross border trade are especially vulnerable to disruptions to their supply chain. Stockpiling is expensive, takes up space and therefore is an unlikely option. SMEs are also more sensitive than larger businesses to how trading conditions impact their cash flow.

How can SMEs mitigate the impact of Brexit on their ability to operate?

Use free advice and resources

There’s no need to use precious resources to reinvent the wheel. We recommend using what’s already available to help you plan:

  1. gov.uk carries detailed advice and information which is business sector specific. It also provides guidance on subjects such as IP and funding. (www.gov.uk/get-ready-brexit-check)
  2. The Federation for Small Businesses’ s Brexit Hub, has guidance available covering the import and export of goods, the employment of EU staff, the transfer of data in and out of the EU and much more (www.fsb.org.uk/standing-up-for-you/brexit-home/brexit-hub)
  3. The British Chamber of Commerce has a useful download checklist that covers everything from the impact of Brexit on your workforce, cross border trade, taxation and insurance, IP, compliance and funding. (www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/brexit-hub)

Ask your suppliers about their Brexit plans

We recommend contacting your suppliers and asking them about their Brexit plans. For example, if your industry is dependent on the import or export of goods then you need to know how your suppliers will keep trading post Brexit:

  1. What are your plans to mitigate port delays for imports and exports?
  2. How will you manage changes in tax liabilities and shipping tariffs?
  3. What is your policy regarding increasing your stock levels?

Don’t forget Brexit affects data transfers as well as cross border trade

European data protection laws, including GDPR), will be incorporated into UK Law post Brexit. Under GDPR any transfers of personal data from the EEA to a ‘third country,’ (which is what the UK will become, post Brexit), are referred to as ‘restricted transfers.’ Restricted transfers  require ‘appropriate safeguards.’ If you use cloud storage, software applications or outsourcing to process or store personal data, you may be making transfers to data centres outside the UK and theses transfers require appropriate safeguards. An example of this would be Microsoft Office 365 which uses data centres across the world.

Talk to your IT providers about data transfers

Do your IT providers transfer data in and out of the UK? If they do, you need to ask:

  1. What safeguards do they have in place?

You will then need to ask your IT providers to evidence the exact type of safeguards they have in place:

  1. Does the destination country have an ‘adequacy decision’ in place? An adequacy decision is a determination by the European Commission that the country in receipt of the data transfer offers an adequate level of data protection.
  2. If your software or cloud provider transfers data to or from the U.S.A does that provider participate in the EU-US Privacy Shield? Remember the U.S.A does not have an overarching adequacy decision in place.
  3. If your US-based provider is not covered by the Privacy Shield then you need to check your contractual terms and conditions to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place.

As an IT provider we are most interested in the impact of Brexit on the availability of IT hardware and on where our customers’ data is stored. Ensuring our customers’ data is safe and secure and that we can supply the equipment they require to operate is pivotal for us.

If you need advice on keeping your IT systems safe and compliant, call a professional now on 02392007850.

Westlake advises businesses to review their PC Infrastructure well in advance of this deadline to understand if they are impacted.

Chris Apperley explains, “Some businesses may be able to upgrade their Windows 7 PCs to Windows 10, but only if they are compatible and it comes at a cost. Alternatively, they will need to buy a new device. As the majority of machines running Windows 7 will be greater than 5 years old, this is a good opportunity to refresh ageing hardware too.”

While businesses can continue to install and use Windows 7 after the End of Support deadline, they will no longer be protected by security updates and therefore will be more susceptible to security breaches and viruses. Just one device running an unpatched version of Windows 7 on a network could open up other machines to security breaches.

Chris Apperley adds, “When you have a network with lots of machines all connected to it, viruses can spread quickly and easily. One unpatched machine could cause issues for your whole business if it became compromised so the risks of retaining Windows 7 machines post end of support are considerable.”

Westlake IT urge businesses to review their PCs and network infrastructure and plan accordingly. Should a business need to purchase new devices it’s important to be able to manage that process cost effectively and to minimise disruption. Another important consideration will be the impact Brexit may have on the PC supply chain. Businesses should factor in the potential for increased costs, low stock availability and increased waiting times post 29 March.

To speak to an IT professional call us now on 02392 007850.

Westlake is advising businesses to review their existing server infrastructure in advance of Microsoft’s End of Support deadlines and, if they are impacted, to put plans in place to either migrate their on-premise servers to Azure or, if they are eligible, to purchase Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates.

Chris Apperley explains, “Doing nothing is not an option as once Microsoft withdraws support for these servers, they will no longer be protected by patches and security updates which may expose businesses to compliance and security risks.”

Microsoft are offering a number of options to businesses so they can continue to operate securely:

One option is to migrate 2008 and 2008 R2 to Azure Virtual Machine and benefit from free Extended Security Updates for both SQL Server and Windows Server 2008 and R2 2008 for three years after the deadline.

Another option is to move to Azure SQL Database Managed Instance which will provide access to continuous security updates, as this is a fully managed solution. Eligible customers can use the Azure Hybrid Benefit (available to customers with active Software Assurance or Server Subscriptions) to obtain discounts on the license of Azure Virtual Machines or Azure SQL Database Managed Instance.

The final option is for businesses to purchase Extended Security Updates for on-premise servers. Businesses are eligible if they have active Software Assurance or Subscription licenses for their servers. Extended Security Updates can be purchased annually for three years after the End of Support date.

Chris Apperley concludes, “We urge businesses to contact their IT partner or work with their internal IT department to put the right plans in place for you. The trend is now very much towards cloud computing as the costs associated with purchasing, licensing and maintaining a physical on-premise server are very high compared to moving to a monthly subscription model for your IT services. That being said every business is different and it’s important that your business needs drive your IT strategy.”

To speak to an IT professional call us now on 02392 007850.

On 29 March 2019, the UK is scheduled to formally leave the EU and the final agreement on the terms and conditions of the UK’s withdrawal will need to be agreed by that date or the UK will potentially face a No-deal exit. On 15 January MPs voted decisively to reject Teresa May’s Brexit deal and the UK continues to live in an era of political and economic uncertainty.

Now more than ever, it is, therefore,  extremely difficult to predict what might happen, and the impact Brexit, and in particular the very real possibility of a no-deal Brexit, will have on businesses. The uncertainty that remains around our trade agreements and regulatory frameworks means that we are urging businesses to prepare for reduced stock levels, longer ordering timeframes and potentially increased costs. 

In addition to time delays, there is also the potential for price increases. While the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Information Technology Agreement promotes zero tariffs on all IT products, the UK can’t sign up to it while we’re a part of the EU. This means that should tariffs be imposed on imported IT products those costs will be passed on. 

Due to continuing levels of uncertainty we are advising businesses to review their IT infrastructure and identify any PCs or Network items such as Firewalls, that may need replacing in advance of 29 March. 

Chris Apperley, MD commented, “We’ve already communicated with our customers offering them a free Asset Audit, detailing the age and operating integrity of their Hardware infrastructure so they can make an informed decision about replacements or upgrades. We urge all businesses to do the same.”

To talk to an IT expert, call Westlake IT today on 02392007850. We’re happy to help.