A person practicing their email strategy

It’s time to rethink our e-mail security strategy

E-mail is an important part of your company’s IT strategy and external communications. When was the last time you reviewed your e-mail security? Are you aware of how e-mail is being used in your business?

Up to 91% of cyber-attacks start with email. It’s the weakest link in the cyber security chain and the one that’s the most open to exploitation through targeted and sophisticated methods.

What is phishing?

Phishing is socially engineered to trick a human victim into paying money, revealing private information (that could lead to a very costly data breach), or launching malware with the intent of bribing the victim (ransomware).

The focal part of the dictionary definition of phishing should be the word “human”. Humans are emotional, we can override our best judgement, we can be manipulated by convincing tactics or a bit of creative graphic design. It’s called human error for a reason. The soft-bodied bit of our IT estate accounted for a whopping 90% of cyber data breaches in 2019.

A man checking his emails after work

The susceptibility of human nature

E-mail security software is amazing, but it can’t catch every maliciously intended e-mail. The few that make it through firewalls depend on a human decision-making process. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning processes are ever-evolving to the e-mail security threat landscape.  

However, there’s not an algorithm on the planet that can replicate the emotional reasoning process that goes on inside Melanie in Account’s brain when she’s baited into clicking that button. This is why e-mail security processes can never fully depend on a piece of software or an algorithm. They must extend into HR processes and a highly adopted company-wide culture and awareness of security.

It’s no surprise that most phishing attacks are conducted via e-mail. More than half of UK businesses have been targeted by ransomware cyber-attacks in the last twelve months. It’s easy to see why criminals favour e-mail as the best way to exploit people. Worldwide, there are over 3 billion spoofed e-mails (from fake e-mail accounts) sent every day.

The rise of phishing attacks in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic gave cybercriminals all the time and incentive they needed to redouble their efforts to launch more sophisticated phishing attacks. Quarter four of 2020 saw a 100% increase in e-mail attacks vs 2019.

E-mail-based cyber security threats are rife. Despite this, most businesses have not changed the way they use e-mail or reviewed their e-mail security policies. As IT experts, we keep our finger on the pulse of some alarming e-mail statistics within the technology industry.

At ITVET, we recently conducted a robust review of our e-mail usage and policies. The strategy and process that went into this exercise tell us unequivocally that we should do everything we can to combat this serious threat to all businesses.

Some of the things e-mail users can be tricked into

  • Sharing business or personal data  
  • Wiring money or making other fraudulent monetary transactions  
  • Visiting corrupt websites
  • Downloading or clicking links containing malware-laden attachments

The outcomes above could be so serious as to put a company out of business. It all starts with just one simple click. So, let’s explore the options open to your company to mitigate your risk and make e-mail more secure.

Email usage in the workplace

End-user training

A vast number of successful e-mail attacks rely on your people simply clicking links in e-mails. Given the risks, it seems unbelievable that most businesses don’t provide employees with any e-mail training on security policies.

Providing end-users with e-mail security training should be an essential part of your business’ IT and cyber security policy. Remember that no matter how good the e-mail security systems you have in place, there are always compromised e-mails that can evade them to land in a user’s inbox. Given the complexity, ingenuity, and technical capabilities of these highly skilled criminals, compromised e-mails are very hard to detect. Fines from a data breach can run to the millions. Losing all your company data to a ransomware attack could destroy your reputation and force you to cease trading.

The use case of e-mail

All companies and end-users use e-mail differently, and sometimes quite inappropriately, which can cause issues with security. It’s important to clarify the who, how, what, and why of e-mail use in your business.

Who?

You may think that all employees need to use e-mail, but these days that’s often not the case. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Teams usage doubled worldwide. With the adoption of Teams and similar internal messaging systems, there’s been a significant reduction in the use of e-mail internally. There are many articles in the tech community heralding the “death of e-mail” as a platform. Statistics certainly back this up as workplace behaviours shift to faster, more collaborative ways of working. Reducing email usage is an instant security improvement. On reviewing your team’s usage of e-mail, you may find that one central e-mail account is sufficient to capture inbound e-mail and overcomes the challenge of what happens to e-mails when people are on holiday. Your team members will most likely still need an e-mail account but without the ability to send externally. Reducing access to e-mail is the first line of defence to mitigating your risks.

A team of colleagues working together

How?

Many e-mail users click links inadvertently, which is a huge risk. The majority of phishing e-mails are sent from spoofed e-mail addresses, so they may look completely genuine to an innocent recipient. The field name may be a known contact, but upon closer inspection, the actual e-mail address is slightly different. Could your employees spot the difference? Training employees on how to use e-mail safely and securely is an essential part of reducing the risk of a targeted attack via your company’s e-mail.

What?

Understand what your business needs from your e-mail system and determine what is appropriate to send or receive.

  • Employees distributing and sharing files or links internally should be avoided if there is an internal messaging system like Teams.
  • Sending or receiving e-mails with content that isn’t relevant or appropriate is more common than you might think.
  • It’s possible to control and regulate e-mail content using an e-mail security system such as Trend Micro’s e-mail Security System. However, the e-mail security system must be tailored to your company’s requirements
A woman checking a long list of emails

Why?

The number of e-mails sent globally is increasing, this is mainly due to the vast amount of spam and fraudulent e-mails being sent. In contrast, e-mail usage for businesses has declined steadily. Many companies have also come to understand that e-mail is an insecure form of communication. So, as well as adopting Teams and similar platforms, many companies have also adopted secure cloud-based platforms to share files and data like SharePoint.

Although e-mail security systems can greatly reduce the amount of unwanted or dangerous e-mails, large amounts of spam are still accepted. This is often caused by employees not opting out correctly when registering for a service. Why accept these e-mails into your company’s e-mail system?

Want to find out how you can improve your email security? Get in touch with our expert team at ITVET and transform your email security strategy.


How to improve email security: 8 essential tips

2020 saw the largest ever increase in online fraud, with malicious emails containing harmful links being by far the most successful methods used by criminals. The City of London Police reported that over £19m was lost to scammers in London alone. With these threats growing in volume and complexity daily, it’s vital we understand how to improve email security.

There is no doubt that email remains the most popular, and quickest way to communicate in business. The volume of emails sent globally continues to increase annually. This trend is set to continue despite the growing popularity of instant messaging and collaborative platforms such as Microsoft Teams.

It is now estimated that over 45% of emails sent are spam. This number only accounts for those emails which have been detected by various spam filters, this does not include the high percentage of ‘allowed’ marketing emails that clog up our mailboxes daily. Russia alone accounted for 23.5% of all unsolicited emails in 2020.

Junk mail in Inbox

It is probably easier to look at the emails that are received by your company and determine what percentage is relevant to your business activities. This may surprise you, as it could be less than 30% of all emails received! If you find that figure difficult to believe, have a look through your own inbox. Like most users, the marketing and spam messages will most likely outnumber genuine work-related emails.

Imagine if you could turn off all unwanted emails into your business, and just see those that are relevant. Imagine getting rid of all those distractions, which are often so numerous it makes it easy to miss genuine emails. But best of all, imagine getting rid of the various phishing and scam emails, and making your email system safer and more secure.

While the most up-to-date and stringent email security systems, such as Trend Micros’ Hosted Email Security can mop up a large percentage of dangerous emails, it is virtually impossible to eradicate them completely. There are various reasons for this that don’t point to the security systems themselves. It is largely down to the way they are configured and the way that emails are used by businesses. So, let’s take a quick look at some email security tips.

Email security tips

Sending email with email security system

Email security systems

Initial setup & configuration – It goes without saying that if your company doesn’t already have one, it most definitely should have a dedicated email security system, like the excellent Trend Micro Email Security System (EMS). However, even if you do have email security, it’s vital that it is configured and maintained correctly. From our experience, many cases are rooted in poor setup and configuration, before being neglected by IT teams. It pays to not underestimate how important and complex the initial setup and configuration is. It’s not just a case of point, click, set, forget. Businesses should look to onboard the services of an email security specialist, who really understands the chosen product, and can also provide training to the in-house IT team if required.

The Known Good Senders List (Whitelist) – A crucial part of any email security system, is building and maintaining an accurate list of known email addresses that your company does business with. This is just as important as determining a Bad Senders List (Blacklist). Building a known good senders list will help prevent the email security system from frustratingly blocking potentially wanted emails as spam. However, it’s still possible to receive dangerous or virus-laden threats from known good email addresses. That said, if your email security system is set up correctly, it should block the vast majority of emails that contain malicious attachments or links. Given the speed that cyber threats evolve, even the most stringent system can allow the odd malicious email through. That is where the company’s own email setup and end-user training comes into play. More about that below.

Spam alert on mobile phone

Security filtering levels – Finding the right balance between being overly zealous or allowing too many spam emails through can be difficult. Users find it frustrating when a genuine email gets trapped as junk, but at the same time, the email security system needs to do its job. Again, this is where it pays to have a dedicated specialist who can work with you to strike the right balance. This may take a few weeks following deployment until the correct level is found, and any tweaks made. From a security perspective, however, it is better to have the odd email trapped than to allow too many through. It’s worth pointing out that releasing trapped emails should be a very simple and painless process for the end-user and take no more than a couple of clicks.

The Company Email Setup

Do all employees need email? – This may seem obvious, but if employees do not need or use email other than for internal use, then it’s possible to simply turn off external emails for those users. It is worth keeping in mind that as more and more companies adopt Microsoft Teams even internal email usage is dropping significantly.

Limit emails to approved senders only – If users only send and receive emails to known contacts, then it’s possible to block all emails from unknown senders. It is also possible to add an autoresponder to both the sender and recipient, so they are aware that the email has been blocked by the email security system. This can even be put in place for generic or departmental email addresses such as ‘sales’ or ‘enquiry’ for example. If an email is sent from an unknown sender, an autoresponder can be sent back with a link to the contact form on the company website. Again, an alert can be sent to the recipient to notify them that an email has been blocked, and a copy of the email is available in the email filtering system just in case.

Restrict emails due to content – While it can be frustrating for end-users to have genuine emails trapped in junk, it’s worth rethinking the type of content that is allowed to be delivered into your organisation, even from your approved senders’ list. For example, you could set up a rule to automatically quarantine all emails with attachments or links to shared documents. This would mean end users having to release them from quarantine. Although this does not completely rule out the threat, it does make the end-users stop and think before they knowingly release a quarantined email. Appropriate warnings can also be displayed at the time of releasing emails too.

Employee on laptop practising secure email

End-user training – It is well known that end users are responsible for unknowingly initiating a majority of successful phishing attacks by clicking on links or downloading harmful attachments. End-user training is probably the most important part of any email security system, yet sadly it is hardly ever provided. Most companies rely solely on the security systems and procedures they have in place, but clearly, this isn’t working. We only have to look at the data to establish that threats are increasing at an alarming rate and is only set to get worse. Training end-users not only provides them with the tools to avoid getting scammed but also the education and understanding as to why security is so important. This may help lessen the frustration when they have to release the odd email from the spam filter!

Internet security – The vast majority of phishing or scam emails rely on an active internet connection to be able to initiate an attack or scam, therefore having a sophisticated internet security solution such as ‘Cisco Umbrella’ can be key. If an unsuspecting user should click on a malicious link, there is a very good chance that the corresponding IP address will be flagged as malicious, and the phishing attack will be thwarted.

Summary

Although the reliance on email in business may be reducing, there is no doubt that it will continue to play a significant role as a communication tool for the foreseeable future. But given the sheer volume and complexity of attacks, it is essential that we understand how to improve email security and make systems as secure as possible. If you would like to find out more or would like to arrange a free initial consultation, please contact us.


A person reading the top tech news

July 2021: Top Tech News

This month witnessed scorchingly high temperatures and an unfortunate low in the Euros final for the England team. On the 19th, of July 2021, almost all COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. In our ever evolving technology industry, there have been innovations, progressive conversations, and unstoppable transformations. From sustainable solutions, PropTech, to social media, let’s take a look at this month’s top tech news.

1. IoT AI services are expected to generate £2.6 billion in revenue by 2026

This month, IoT Tech News reported Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning services within the Internet of Things (IoT) industry are growing by 40% annually. By 2026, they should reach £2.6 billion.

The IoT market has accelerated since the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic. This is partly because people need solutions for remote asset management. Employers monitor their offices without needing to be present in the building. Homeowners use ‘predictive maintenance’ to proactively alert them when an issue arises with a home appliance. Early warning notifications prevent minor issues escalating into expensive repair jobs.

There have also been huge innovations in IoT AI services within healthcare as a reaction to the Covid19 pandemic. Every industry is seeing the potential in IoT AI services. Hospitals benefit from diagnostic accuracy with AI. Diagnostic accuracy ensures there’s no visual noise in scans. Patients are monitored remotely using IoT, which is especially effective for contagious conditions. IoT sensors are placed on chairs, beds, doorways to understand where the patients are and what space is available. The sensors constantly collect data that hospital staff can see on a clear dashboard.

Find out more about IoT.

A doctor checking his patients using IoT

2. Microsoft increase their sustainability commitment

Microsoft has high expectations for its sustainable impact. They aim to be carbon negative by 2030, meaning they intend to store more carbon dioxide than they emit. To achieve this, they have released a new strategy this month.

How sustainable is electricity?

Electricity is considered a clean form of energy when you ignore the generation and transmission of electricity. The electrons supplying the electricity need to be generated from zero-carbon energy sources. This includes wind and solar power. They are then stored and transported to where they are needed. The current issue is most electrons flowing onto grids are coming from carbon-intensive sources. This is compromising the sustainability of Microsoft. They need a new strategy to ensure they are carbon neutral by 2030.

The “grid” refers to substations, transformers, and power lines that connect electricity producers and consumers.

Microsoft changes how they buy renewable energy

Currently, Microsoft doesn’t run on renewable energy at all times. This is because their energy purchases don’t always come from sustainable energy grids.

The new goal is to ensure their clean energy purchases are feeding into local grids where it operates. They refer to this as 100/100/0; on all the world’s grids, 100% of the time, are generated from zero-carbon sources. Here in the UK, the same commitment is referred to as “Net Zero”. Many companies have already joined the fight to become Net Zero as quickly as possible to minimise the damage we are doing to our planet.

Microsoft will achieve this aspiration by using their influence. Already in the last year, Microsoft has signed new purchase agreements for renewable energy in 10 countries. They will be innovating their energy purchasing contracts to take away the high carbon intensity off the grid whilst bringing more zero-carbon energy onto the grid. As huge industry influencers that can create quite a buzz in their own right, Microsoft are sharing and promoting their efforts. By doing this, other companies will sit up, take notice, and do more to emulate their actions.

ITVET’s reaction

At ITVET, we are a Microsoft Gold Partner. We provide sustainable technical solutions and IT support. Therefore, we’re thrilled to hear about this tech news that Microsoft is increasing its sustainability commitment.

Find out more

carbon neutral electricity grids

3. Plastic bags are the solution for sand shortages

The need for technological solutions

The construction industry is responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world. We are building at an unprecedented rate. New sustainable solutions are needed desperately to reduce this percentage.

Sand is a raw material used in huge quantities in construction and manufacturing. It was reported this month, 40-50 billion tonnes of sand are used around the world annually. Sourcing sand can entail removing it from rivers which causes environmental damage. There is a huge sand shortage taking place. This shortage leaves many people jobless. In India, political intervention has previously been needed to assist in the sand shortage.

How plastic can be used

Research from Bath University demonstrated that wasted plastic could swap sand within concrete. Dr. John Orr, a lecturer in concrete structures, believes this innovation “saves the need for a huge amount of sand and helps to reduce the vast amount of plastic waste on India’s streets.”

Sand comprises around 25% of concrete. With a sand shortage, the construction industry suffers. 10% of that sand can be replaced with finely ground plastic particles. Using plastic doesn’t impact on the longevity of the concrete, and also provides a cheaper resource.

Read in more detail.

Construction workers using plastic in concrete

4. President Joe Biden comments on misinformation taking place on Facebook

The use and abuse of social media

Earlier this month, an administration report was circulated regarding online COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. It was published by the science journal, The Surgeon. It calls for a push to address vaccine and COVID-19 misinformation across all social media sites, predominantly Facebook. Companies are urged to redesign their algorithms to avoid further spread of misinformation. The Surgeon requested clear consequences for those who violate social media sites through misinformation.

The reaction of the White House

It was reported the majority of COVID-19 anti-vaccine misinformation originated from just 12 people. It then spiralled out of control. On this topic, Biden told reporters at the White House: “Facebook isn’t killing people. These 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information.”

Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki provided further comment on the subject: “We’re not in a war or a battle with Facebook. We’re in a battle with the virus.”

The conversation of online misinformation and social media responsibility picked up momentum following the release of Netflix’s 2020 documentary, The Social Dilemma. The documentary and the COVID-19 pandemic misinformation are showing social media platforms are failing to responsibly regulate their sites. This month, the sites failed to regulate racist abuse targeted towards England’s football players. Which begs the question, how big of a part will social influence play in our lives moving forward?

The white house

5. UK scientists develop AI that detects sleep disorders

Researchers from the University of Sheffield have developed Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can monitor snoring levels and diagnose sleep disorders. This technology is in the form of a simple to use app named SoundSleep.

Various sleep disorders, such as apnoea, are difficult to diagnose. A symptom of sleep apnoea is somebody’s breathing stops and starts. Getting a diagnosis of a sleep disorder can be an expensive and time-consuming process. It usually requires trips to specialist sleep clinics. Many people are undiagnosed and unaware of what solutions there are.

The app records the sounds you make whilst asleep and provides a daily report with solutions to help you. You can be accurately diagnosed with AI. The app invites you to log information about your lifestyle. It can inform you how to ease the symptoms of your sleep disorder.

Take a closer look.

The app SoundSleep working as someone is asleep

In this month, there were presidential intervention and AI-powered solutions. Want to keep up to date on top tech news? Why not follow us for regular updates?

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Example of smart building energy efficiency

How retrofitted IoT sensors and data monitoring features create smart building energy efficiency

ITVET were founded with an eco-conscious purpose. We provide solutions that have a positive impact on our environment and local community. Smart building energy efficiency is one facet of our smart building expertise. When leveraged to its full potential, the ascension of technology can make a positive impact on our environment. We’re transforming our ITVET offices into energy efficient smart buildings by introducing a range of energy efficient IoT features. As specialists in smart building strategy, we retrofit older buildings to incorporate smart building features that support their sustainability goals. In this article, we look at why offices need to be revolutionised with smart energy management using IoT, and the changes ITVET is making to reduce our carbon footprint.

The need for energy efficient smart buildings

Analysing our energy usage is key to reducing the carbon footprint of our offices

Retrofitting smart IoT technology creates energy efficient smart buildings. According to the International Energy Agency, buildings are “accounting for more than 30% of global energy use today and 30% of energy-related CO2 emissions”. Retrofitting should be prioritised over new build projects. This reduces energy demand in the construction sector, an industry with an exponential carbon footprint.

The 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction notes electricity consumption in building operations represents nearly 55% of global electricity consumption. Every day actions from heating entire buildings to leaving screens on overnight, soon add up. Humans are inherently unreliable and forgetful creatures. This unreliability leads to careless waste of electric, water and many more of our planet’s precious resources. The inefficiencies of our manual processes wreak disastrous consequences on our planet.

Consequence of not utilising energy efficiency

Manual processes invite mistakes

It’s hard to set high standards for your office’s sustainability if you rely on human compliance. People frequently forget to switch off the heating, or an office light at the end of the day.

Office temperature is always a heated subject. There’s always that one colleague who feels the need to keep the air conditioning on ‘artic mode’. They turn it up high whilst their colleagues are sat shivering in their coats. They don’t consider how many people are in the office and what spaces are in occupation. With smart technology, you can ensure only the necessary parts of the office are heated up or cooled down. For example, if a few people are working overtime, the IoT sensors will detect their presence. The smart technology ensures perfect working conditions. There is no need to waste energy in parts of the office where no one is present.

Mistakes happen. Whether it’s leaving the light on in the bathroom, not closing the fridge or leaving the tap to drip. With smart building features retrofitted into traditional office infrastructure, human error is minimised.

The financial disadvantages of manual processes

Cooling an entire building uses a huge amount of energy. The Facilities Management Journal reported in January 2020 that “office buildings are losing £60m energy every year.” This energy could power over 100,000 homes.

Not only are office buildings haemorrhaging money, but they are also significantly contributing toward the effects of climate change.

Energy wastage in an empty office

IoT and energy efficiency

The Internet of Things (IoT) and energy efficiency go hand in hand. We are employing a range of IoT sensors and data monitoring features to our offices to improve our sustainability performance.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

IoT means various objects are connected to the internet, enabling them to network and collect data from each other. The ‘IoT agenda’ describes IoT features as an ecosystem.’ This consists of “web-enabled smart devices that use embedded systems, such as processors, sensors and communication hardware, to collect, send and act on data they acquire from their environments.”

These features, and the data they collect, give you invaluable information about your building. They add functionality to the most mundane items such as bin wastage. For example, a sensor on a bin alerts you when it requires emptying. It logs the data it collects so you understand how much waste your company disposes of. Additionally, IoT brings protection to valuable equipment. For example, with IoT-enabled asset tracking you can locate stolen laptops that contain confidential information.

The capability of a robust IoT strategy

IoT is more than connected appliances. You can manage your building and permit smart building management using IoT. These features ensure our sustainability standards are met even from a remote location.

ITVET’s smart energy management using IoT

A building is considered sustainable if it conserves energy. Energy efficiency in smart buildings also improves employee wellbeing. Here are the smart features ITVET is introducing to our offices.

Building occupancy detection

There is no need to heat an entire building if there are empty rooms. To create the optimum working environment for your employees you need to know where they are. Manually, you monitor CCTV footage or walk around the office to gauge numbers and location. This disrupts your working day and it’s not an efficient process. Most importantly, this can’t be done if you’re out of the office.

IoT sensors detect the presence of people, known as ‘occupancy monitoring’. This is also referred to as ‘people counting’. It detects how many people are in a defined space. Sensors collect the data and an action is triggered. Mobile applications such as UltraHR can also map employee locations live in real-time.

Occupancy monitoring detects the movement of employees

Data triggers an action

Like many heating systems, the ITVET offices previously had just one main thermostat, with thermostatic valves at each radiator location. When nobody was working in a room, it still heated up, unless the individual radiators were manually switched off.

ITVET now ensure all employees are in a comfortable work environment, using IoT sensors to detect how many people are in a room and adjusting radiator heat accordingly.

IoT is now consistently used to collect room temperature, lighting, and ventilation data. This data is used to action triggers, such as automatically turning of any non-essential energy when employees leave for the day..

Consistency with a Building Management System

All of the features outlined above combine to become one BMS (Building Management System) . A modern BMS is an intelligent software platform that monitors the technical systems within a building. This controls temperature centrally. We set parameters to enable the smart management of our heaviest power usage systems. For example, one parameter could be for all lights to switch off when a door is locked each evening. It constantly monitors office activity around the clock to create the most energy efficient work environment. This provides huge savings and minimises energy waste.

Our BMS was designed and custom-made by our ITVET software development team. The custom features ensure it works efficiently for our office and it maximises cost and energy savings. There is a clear dashboard that shows us our energy usage at any time.

Metrics from ITVET's energy efficient BMS system

With our existing experience in the property management sector, our data experts can aggregate data from most systems into one central, usable console and data feed. Making your building’s data accessible is essential if you want to maximise the efficient use of power and utilities in your building

The wider impact of data metrics

With access to these data metrics, we can make more informed decisions. Are employees charging their devices longer than needed? Is the kettle overfilled to make one hot drink? IoT data can show all of this. The data helps us zero in on repeated unsustainable behaviours. We can communicate this with our team using metrics to understand how our actions affect energy usage. This in turn will help us apply sustainable practices at home.

ITVET is a company made up of eco-conscious individuals whose principles are equally balanced between home and work life. Smart building energy efficiency, using IoT features retrofitted in our head office, ensure we meet the high standards we set for ourselves. IoT devices constantly capture data that allows us to understand how our building is used. We can make responsible decisions with this information. We feel at peace knowing the BMS ensures energy is only used when it’s required.

How could IoT features optimise your workplace? Get in touch to find out!


Phone downloading the Microsoft Teams app

ITVET digital transformation: What is Microsoft Teams Direct Routing?

ITVET are migrating our phone systems to use Microsoft Teams direct routing. Being able to use Microsoft Teams for both internal and external calls will improve our team productivity, customer service, and overall efficiency. In this article, we look at what is Microsoft Teams Direct Routing and how the role of the phone moving forward is changing.

What is our Teams Migration Project?

Our Current Phone System

At ITVET, we are confident in our products, which is why we use the same phone systems that we deploy for our clients. Our current phone system was custom developed in-house and sits outside of the Microsoft Teams platform. While our current phone system supports external communications, Microsoft Teams acts as our primary tool for internal contact. Unifying these two communication methods will ultimately increase our productivity, efficiency, and sense of community.  

What is Microsoft Teams Direct Routing?

As part of our migration project, we are switching to Microsoft Teams Direct Routing. Microsoft Teams Direct Routing enables us to make phone calls, both internal and external, directly from the Teams platform. Teams will be used as our primary method for all communication and will eliminate the need for a separate telephony system. 

Why do we Need this Change?

We need to unify our communications into one service for consistent accountability and efficiency. We have a busy call centre department who capture and track our inbound IT support requests via telephone. They are the engine room of our company. Their efficient running is paramount to our customer satisfaction levels.  Leveraging Microsoft Teams for client-facing calls ensures that everyone who gets in touch with ITVET hears a friendly human voice from a member of our team. We want to give everyone who contacts us a positive and helpful user experience. Having our telephone system integrated into the Teams interface means everything is located in one single system. This unifies our information, boosting the efficiency of our customer service and call record tracking.  Delivering an accessible user-friendly service means we boost our rapport with our clients, delivering them slick, seamless support. Better customer satisfaction is one of many positive outcomes of switching to Teams as our phone system.

The Limitations of Separate Systems

Separate systems for our internal and external communications can increase points of failure and slow down productivity.

It makes it harder to keep track of who took which call and what was discussed in that phone call. It is time-consuming to keep up with this admin and there is room to make mistakes. Teams Direct Routing has the option to record and transcribe phone calls and voicemails for you, which our current phone system can’t do. Think about the time savings from instant notes created when the phone call has finished. We already use Teams for project management, video meetings, instant messaging, document management and much more. Why have a whole different system for phone calls? The way Teams is designed makes it easy to accomplish any task right within the software. By enabling you to perform a huge number of actions that are directly connected to contacts and people, Teams speeds up collaboration.

Calls can be made directly from contacts within your system with a touch of a button, or by using a dial pad on the screen to manually input the number. Using separate office telephones is now optional rather than compulsory. This tidies our desks and reduces future costs on replacement phones. Teams keeps a digital record of every phone call made. This makes administration and team management and tracking simple.

Moving Forward

This project will see ITVET work under one unified system for every form of communication. All verbal, video and written communication takes place on Teams. Teams Direct Routing enables us to connect our on-premise telephony infrastructure to Microsoft Teams.  It unifies communication making it ideal for remote workers.

Spider diagram of the benefits of migrating phone systems to Teams

Operate at the forefront of Digital Transformation

The Statistics

Microsoft Teams adoption rates have rapidly grown since the COVID-19 work at home directive. Many businesses already use Microsoft 365, so the decision to use Teams as their central communication tool is the next logical step. In the US alone, 91 of the 100 largest companies use Teams. In April 2020, 75 million people used Microsoft Teams.

Stats showing use of microsoft teams increase

Usability

These companies have taken note of the system’s efficiencies. At ITVET, we have benefited from Team’s user-friendly features. From the conversational channels and trusted data encryption, to video calls with the option to share your screen, files, or even a PowerPoint presentation.

The Future of Teams

Statistics indicate that the uptake of the Teams platform is likely to continue on its growth trajectory. Since January 2020, Microsoft saw a 500 per cent increase in usage of Teams meetings, calls, and conferences. To meet the needs of its growing user base, Microsoft continue to release exciting features and functionality as the Team platform grows. The architecture of the system invites collaboration and community, which ITVET are passionate about. Teams is a forward thinking development in how we now work, and we want to be part of this productive change.

Align with flexible workforce needs

The work environment has experienced rapid change and we require new systems to facilitate this change. Flexible work is the new normal, part-time hours and freelance work are on the rise, and business owners have reconsidered the purposes of their office estates. The Teams platform results in better productivity and quality of work thanks to its flexibility and adaptability.

How Working Practices are Evolving

The way we work today looks different to how we worked a decade ago and therefore we need new tools.

As the use of Teams has risen, the use of email has declined. People want fast and more informal communication rather than long email threads. It is easy to miss an important message in your inbox amongst spam emails.

People do not see the purpose of commuting for a meeting when it can take place online with the same amount of collaboration. Workers don’t want to sit all day in isolated office cubicles; they want open collaborative spaces that can be found online. At any point of the day, you can see the availability of your colleagues and give them a phone call from your screen.

Remote Work

Forbes states remote work is set to increase by 77% in the next 2 years. The tech transformation required to accommodate this statistic has got to start by simplifying our most powerful forms of communication.

With Teams Direct Routing, calls can be made on the go, which is perfect for remote workers. No personal phone numbers need to be used which maintains professionalism, values your privacy and preserves your work-life balance.

Smiling woman having sitting on the sofa having a web call on her laptop

Minimal disruption

It is important that our migration of phone systems is seamless. At ITVET, Technical Design Engineer Jacob Mansfield has project managed our Teams migration. He works with several departments that are heavy users of our phone system. He ensures that any changes to the phone system supports the way we work as a company with no interruption to our service. Our previous phone system gave us the flexibility offered by call routing. Teams’ features allow us to retain this flexibility and add many more.

Increase productivity and collaboration

We enrich our productivity with a standardised phone system. This standarisation aligns with new work habits of faster communication through instant messaging, and collaborative digital spaces.

Saving Time

Forrester Consulting conducted a study on the usage of Microsoft Teams and found businesses exponentially saved time without realising. By using Teams these organisations require fewer meetings with Teams in general. Their Teams communications were effective in providing collaboration and organisation. The results show nearly 90% of respondents indicated that their productivity increased when employees can message, share content, and manage projects from one platform. 

Voicemails, phone calls, and meetings are automatically transcribed. This saves needless admin time writing notes during a phone call and ensures you can fully concentrate on the call.  Call recordings, documents or transcripts can be shared with someone who couldn’t be present.

All the powerful features of Teams technology are wrapped into the phone system. Since we already use Microsoft applications, the efficiencies that are created compound themselves by using Teams as our phone system.

Using teams for all communications allows us to :

  • Make decisions faster
  • Save time by at least 15 minutes a day rather than switching between apps and systems. 
  • Avoid unnecessary trips to meet in person

Increased Cross-Geographical Collaboration

Collaboration processes are standardised in Teams which speeds up decisions. It is built right into Microsoft’s architecture, like its DNA. There is no need to be in a physical room to collaborate. Teams inform you of your clients’ time zones, so you know the best time to phone them. 

Animated image of a team sitting in an office video conferencing with work colleagues

Improved Work-Life Balance

Users’ wellbeing is improved when their work-life balance is prioritised. You can switch to out of office in one click. This ensures you won’t receive any more work notifications and phone calls once you’re switched off. Voicemail can be configured to kick in as soon as people stop working. This minimises direct phone calls to personal mobile phones during leisure time. Changing your availability also communicates to your colleagues when you’re free to communicate with them and critically, when you’re not.

Improving work-life balance results in more focus and productivity during working hours. With no notifications, you can switch off from work. The collaborative features in Teams engage your team with each other while working together seamlessly. Companies with highly engaged employees grow twice as fast as those with low engagement.

Merge business communication in to one unified system

A separate phone system to a video conferencing suite creates complexity.

The Microsoft Service Suite

The Teams phone system already sits in the Microsoft Service Suite. Microsoft’s Direct Call Routing turns the Microsoft Teams environment into a cloud-based phone system. You can call anyone, anywhere in the world directly with Teams.  ITVET retain all existing telephone numbers so the migration does not disrupt our service. It is familiar and efficient. Converging all the tools you use to one system is productive. When on a phone call you can send key documents over and discuss the document with a client. You can instant message colleagues during a phone call.

Greater transparency into business data

Call Tracking

With our old phone system, call history data needed to be retrieved manually, by asking people who had answered the call. Mistakes can easily be made when we obtain this information manually. Teams captures and records all this data automatically. The information is in the hands of the Managers that need it. Managers can see who phones in, who answers the phone, the length of the call, and relevant notes from the call all in one place.

Meet environmental commitments

Eco-Friendly Efficiency

The transcription feature of Teams ensures all relevant information is already captured. You don’t need to write down important information on post-it notes, notepads or scraps of paper. At ITVET, we’re making huge steps towards becoming paperless. This project helps towards our commitment in reducing environmental waste.

Unified communications on Teams ensures we collaborate with anyone, anywhere. There is no need for unnecessary trips to meetings with clients. We drive less, actively reducing our carbon footprint, lessening damage to our planet.

The way we now work is different. We require systems that align with our work habits. Emails are in decline, whilst verbal and video communication are on the rise. We’ve looked into what is Microsoft Teams Direct Routing. It’s clear we need the collaboration and efficiency that Microsoft Teams can offer for our  phone system. All our tools can be found on one screen on Teams. Are you ready to embrace more productivity and faster decision making? Get in touch to discuss any questions you have on how we can improve your workplace’s efficiency using Teams as your internal and external phone system.


Why your smart building development needs an overarching technical strategy

Your technical strategy is the DNA of your smart building. A joined-up technical strategy at the development stage ensures the faultless running of all your systems in the long term. This enhances your tenant satisfaction, attracting better tenants and increasing your yields. The implementation of an overarching technical strategy from day one is essential to a smooth development and flawless running. An integrated approach unites all of the complex systems in your building, drawing your performance data together into a manageable format. In this article, we will find out how.

What does an overarching technical strategy achieve?

Smart planning ensures your smart buildings’ systems work together cohesively

Smart building systems are the way forward for facility management. When planning a smart building strategy, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. A great deal of consultancy, technical expertise and a deep understanding of smart building features is required. Every smart building has different infrastructure and different architectural objectives. All of these are closely examined when engineering your smart building strategy. Many construction companies are confident with building the structures but may lack the technical expertise of how to join up disparate systems with complex controls. This can cause chaos and a scattered approach.

The criticality of a robust strategy

The Cambridge dictionary defines strategy as “a detailed plan for achieving success in situations such as war, politics, business, industry, or sport, or the skill of planning for such strategies.”

The goal of your smart building’s technical strategy is to join up all of your systems so they work harmoniously on a secure and reliable network. How do we achieve this? To create this strategy, you need skilled and experienced smart building consultants. This is what ITVET does. We have managed many prestigious smart property development projects. Our team work hands-on with your software and systems developers, contractors and site managers. Working closely with them at every stage of the process to gain a firm understanding of your smart building’s technical strategy. 

A logical approach to smart buildings

The most successful smart building development projects require ninja-level coordination skills and technical expertise. Successful deployment requires a specialist skillset to synchronize your software controls, security, mechanical and electrical systems. Relying on individual subcontractors to execute this strategy can result in added complexity and chaos. Subcontractors with deep expertise in their own mechanical and electrical systems may not necessarily understand the importance of network security. They may not know how their system integrates with other (IoT) devices on the network. More than likely they do not understand the various layers of an IT network and how all the technologies converge to work as a harmonious system. To work properly and avoid conflicts, all the operational technologies must work together flawlessly.

ITVET team speak the same language as your individual technology providers. We translate both software and hardware technical requirements into workable solutions. As smart building project managers, we can advocate for you, problem solve and deliver a technical strategy that works reliably first time.

What happens after your smart building is created? With ITVET, you have guaranteed IT support as part of your overarching technical strategy.

How does your smart building benefit from an overarching technical strategy?

It’s vitally important that your smart building development project objectives are deeply understood and met. What are your architectural drivers for using each smart building technology? Why are you harnessing smart building technology? You may be aiming to enhance your energy efficiency, create a unique customer experience, or ensure your property stands out in a crowded property market. Your smart building strategy ensures that you meet all of your objectives.

Ensuring your priorities are upheld

ITVET’s smart buildings team create a tailored digital strategy that fulfils your functional, design and operational requirements. ITVET’s experts create strategies that are scalable, customer-focused, and custom-made for your asset. We work with you to ensure your technical strategy meets your brief. We also ensure objectives are upheld in the design, construction, and maintenance phases of your smart building.

Identifying and solving problems

The nature of smart building features is that they are logically interconnected with the fabric of your building and woven into your network.  Understanding the interoperability of each technology and driving a smart integration strategy is critical to your projects’ success.

ITVET work with you to create your overarching technical strategy to remove any limitations from your project.  We help you select the right technical services and solutions for you and your tenants.

Investing in a robust smart building strategy

As part of your long-term smart building strategy, you will be thinking about your future objectives. These may be positioning your building favorably in the property market to avoid rental gaps. Or, simply pushing to lower your operational costs. In the fullness of time, you may use behavioral analytics and crowd monitoring technology to further automate and enhance your users’ experience. Real-time occupancy monitoring enables you to understand your tenants needs as they evolve and tailor your user experience around them.

The Consequences of not having a technical strategy

Harmonious communication

Without a clear technical strategy, it’s hard to ensure your projects’ priorities and goals are upheld. You may manage multiple subcontractors, all skilled for the service they provide, yet these subcontractors don’t work together or communicate with each other. This approach creates a slow and disjointed building process fraught with risk.

Lack of connection and flow   

A smart building is smart because all of the components are linked to one IT network. This idea of connection is fundamental and needs to be in the overarching technical strategy. When you hire multiple subcontractors to implement your mechanical and electrical systems, they may only work at the physical network layer. They don’t always understand how the IoT and other technical solutions are layered with your mechanical and electrical solutions. Additionally, they may not understand what you need from your systems’ data and where it needs to go to optimize performance. These things can cause a number of problems at the smart building development stage. A solid smart building technical strategy ensures a truly frictionless user experience. Our experts deeply understand how your smart building is interconnected, ensuring faultless performance.

How stable is your network?

Smart building performance relies on many sensors and interconnected IoT devices. Each send individual data streams across your network. But what if your data network goes down? If your appliances such as air conditioning or lighting are reliant on your network connection your tenant satisfaction vastly decreases. Some smart buildings even control key functions like toilet flushing via their network. In this case, a network failure could make the building very uncomfortable, very quickly.

Strong security system in a smart building

How secure are your systems?

What if someone unauthorised obtains malicious access to your data network and all of the information it contains?

Core IoT systems are vulnerable to attack

With the rise of IoT devices generally, there is a specialist part of the cybersecurity skillset that is growing more than others. The IT world is waking up to the fact that the IoT approach of connecting physical devices and making them report back their data creates many security vulnerabilities. The cybersecurity niche called Operational Technology (OT) is responsible for ensuring that critical systems remain protected from cyber-attacks. The best approach to security is prevention. Therefore, building your entire network architecture with layers of embedded security is optimal to mitigate data loss or attack.

Here is how ITVET keeps your network safe:

  • Consultation and design – Our dedicated network specialists work with you to design a network that forms a structured backbone for all smart building functions and systems.
  • Network installation – Our deployment engineers have years of smart building experience. They install state-of-the-art data networks in flagship building projects all over the UK. They manage this process from end-to-end. This includes physical cabling, data cabinets, and switches.
  • Infrastructure audit – We audit and monitor the integrity of your cabling switch infrastructure. 
  • Network security – We penetration test both externally and internally to ensure the security of your network.
  • Network monitoring – Our advanced systems monitor your network 24/7.
  • 24/7 network support – Our team of qualified IT Engineers support your network round the clock.

Often, during smart building projects, we find that little to no consideration is given towards network security. Security is a vital component to the creation and maintenance of a smart building which is why it must be given high priority within your strategy.

Use your data smartly

A KPMG survey on real estate technology discovered that only 29% of firms use data analytics techniques, and 54% don’t have current plans. As a result, these firms struggle to make fast decisions that meet the needs of their customers. Many industries deal with data chasms where they collect an exponential amount of data, and don’t know what to do with it. To effectively understand your data, intelligent tools are required to enable customer-led decisions.

ITVET’s data software

ITVET’s data analytics software clearly displays your collected data metrics. These metrics deliver invaluable insights. This software aggregates data from many places into one management console. We tailor the software to your buildings’ requirements with custom-built modules. This allows you to access your metrics at any time. Having clear access to your property’s data analytics increases your yields and feeds important management decisions.

ITVET builds the data aggregation into the smart building software. Our analytics software enables you to easily interpret this data. This would include occupancy hotspots in your smart building, what equipment is touched, the routes people take and much more. This real-time behavioural and performance data enables you to make decisions to ensure your asset’s performance remains high.  

How ITVET can help 

ITVET work with hundreds of clients to create custom smart buildings that are reliable and successful. We provide a frictionless experience to create your overarching technical strategy. Our on-going support, and network monitoring exceed normal checks. Providing you with the tools to drive returns within your smart building. This includes our data software so you can see how your asset is used, and how you can optimise it. An overarching network, systems, and data strategy means you don’t need to rely on the collaboration of disparate subcontractors. You can expect a clear vision from day one and know clearly that your criteria are always met.

ITVET’s strategy examples

ITVET has worked with hundreds of clients to create bespoke overarching technical strategies for many smart building projects. We listen to our clients and create logical smart buildings with unique features that really stand out in a crowded market. Here are two examples:

One Heddon Street

The slogan of One Heddon Street is ‘Work. Space. Redefined’. One Heddon Street ensures workers have the perfect environment for productivity. They offer flexible memberships for tenants to use their space. It’s the smart building features that make the space attractive. Tenant comfort was the ultimate priority in the creation of the technical strategy.

Here is what we provided through our strategy:  

  • Superfast internet – 1GB of resilient Wi-Fi backbone.
  • Thermal comfort – tenants have access to change the temperature of where they are sat to suit them.
  • Biodiversity – There is a living wall, an indoor garden, and trees are planted on each floor to create a relaxed ambience.
  • Indoor air quality – The fresh air supply to the offices is 50% above the minimum recommended level.

The Crystal

Events venue The Crystal is accredited as one of the world’s greenest buildings. Located in the Royal Docks, this smart building has seven equipped meeting rooms, a state-of-the-art auditorium, and a number of event spaces. The smart building features allow The Crystal to attract eco-conscious clientele to host their events there. This was fundamental to the strategy. ITVET used smart building features to reduce operating costs and the asset’s carbon footprint. Here are the solutions we implement in the overarching technical strategy:

  • 80% of its hot water is heated by solar energy and ground source heat pumps.
  • 70% less CO2 emissions compared to other offices in the UK.
  • Tenants can easily control lighting, temperature, microphone volume, all from a tablet or phone. 

Smart buildings require intelligent thinking. ITVET are experts in smart building strategy. We use a custom-made technical strategy to ensure a seamless experience in the creation and maintenance of your smart building. Want to find out what your strategy could look like?

Get in touch today.


Asset manager in her smart building

How Smart Building Features Attract More Tenants

Smart buildings are the way forward to efficiently deliver services into your buildings. Smart building features make running your properties economical, reducing the environmental impact of your buildings, and reducing your expenditure. These features attract premium tenants whilst keeping your current tenants satisfied. Prioritising your tenants’ wellbeing by creating the perfect ambiance involving temperature, light, and ventilation results in strong returns from satisfied tenants. With a strong digital strategy and reliable IT support, your smart building can reduce any rental voids. By appealing to a more affluent demographic, smart buildings increase your profits and optimise every part of your space for peak performance with enticing features.

What is a Smart Building?

What makes a building ‘smart’ is the use of technology to share information about the building’s various functions. This information is then used to optimise the building’s performance by automating ventilation, heating, and much more. It is through Information of Things (IoT) devices including sensors, online connectivity, and software that smart buildings can control various systems automatically. They use data from sensors to automatically correct and adjust their own settings. For example, they can sense temperature fluctuations and optimise their environment. IoT is essentially everyday items including doors and toilets, which are networked together using the internet.  These sensors can react to stimuli including sound and light to provoke the device to perform a functional response such as reducing light.

A smart building dashboard inside a workplace

The Features of a Smart Building

Connected Sensors

All the core systems are linked. Each sensor is attached to a surface or object. These objects then send data wirelessly to the cloud. Sensors on a desk or bin send their data streams wirelessly to one network. ITVET’s smart building experts set up and maintain your network with your smart building strategy at its heart.  

Collection of Data

Each sensor plays a key role in collecting useful data that is used to automate your building systems. This can include which desks are used during the day, which rooms are entered, and how often your toilets are used. Smart buildings generate a large volume of data meaning you can make informed decisions on the running of your workplace. Tangible data sets mean that you don’t have to guess or make costly mistakes.

Automation using Data

Through automation, changes can be made to your workplace without you needing to be involved. For example, sensors on your blinds will monitor the amount of light entering your workplace. Too bright? They automatically close the blinds the right amount for your tenants’ comfort. Too dark? – The blinds automatically open and the lights become brighter.

How Smart Building Features Benefit You

A person's phone with a smart building dashboard

Occupancy monitoring and IoT sensors are fundamental to cutting costs

Occupancy monitoring reveals your tenants’ whereabouts, frequency, and visit duration in real-time. This is valuable data. Maybe your conference room is only used on Tuesdays. Perhaps it could be booked by tenants on other days of the week for a quiet day of focused work. Planning efficient facility management is extremely difficult without information on how many people use certain spaces, and how often. Collecting data opens your eyes to exactly how your building estate is actually used. Are your tenants dwelling in hotspots? Find out why, and then you can enhance your clients’ working environment.

Data-led decisions

Are you making the most of your building estate? Is each square foot reaching its full potential? Your data will tell you this.  Smart building sensors collect data 24/7. ITVET’s data analytics software clearly displays your collected data metrics delivering valuable insights. Having clear access to your property’s data analytics increases your yields as your decision-making becomes data-driven.

How does data save expenditure?

Using ITEVT’s trusted data analytics software, you can arrange for a timetabled report to be sent to your cleaning staff. This will specify exactly which areas need to be cleaned. The sensors detect what has been touched during the day. Not only does this save time, but it also saves on expenses for cleaning products. Sensors can be placed in bins to notify cleaning staff when they need to be emptied. Your tenants can rely on cleanliness and comfort within their workspace. You even have access to which toilets need cleaning; maybe the end cubicle has not been used for a few days. Again, why cleaning something that doesn’t need it wastes valuable resource and cost. This data, tells you the best time for cleaning staff to enter that does not interrupt your tenants’ workday.

Decreasing your carbon footprint

Providing heating and air conditioning for your buildings is both expensive and can be damaging to the environment if it is constantly being used. Occupancy monitoring means you know where your tenants are. If no one is currently working on one of your floors, then why do you need to heat it? If nobody has walked through the corridors in over five minutes, then why are the lights still on?

Using real-time occupancy data, smart IoT devices can control elements such as room temperature and lighting and make your smart building more energy efficient. You can ensure the needs of your tenants are always met without excessive damage to our environment.

A smart building next so trees

Guaranteed energy savings with no hassle

Recent research has revealed the British population is wasting £4.4 billion every single year by leaving lights on unnecessarily. This is a devasting figure. By using IoT features, the lights, heating, air conditioning, and equipment can be automatically switched off when they’re not in use. You don’t have to rely on a member of staff to close down systems and turn lights off. This gives you peace of mind that someone’s forgetfulness will not cost you money.

Managing building energy usage in this efficient way slashes power costs significantly. With utility costs rising quickly, there has never been more of an imperative to do this. Energy usage is one area that weighs heavily on many Building Managers’ minds.

Eco-friendly smart features attract a wider clientele

You can promote your asset as sustainable because of these energy savings. This makes your facilities stand out in a crowded property market. The smart features attract wider demographics including eco-conscious individuals. This demographic is typically more affluent and less price-sensitive, enabling you to charge premium rentals and deliver stronger returns. If their business or personal values prioritise sustainability, they tend to choose the sustainable option. Your premises ranks higher with their environmental preferences than buildings without smart features.

ITVET support hundreds of building estates throughout the UK. Our expert management of their IT estate and network enables them to make the most of smart building features to manage their buildings efficiently. Our property management software aggregates data from a multitude of different devices and assets. This makes management easier and reporting more straightforward.

How Smart Building Features Ensure your Tenants are Satisfied

A smart building manager handing keys over to a tenant

Tenant Productivity and Comfort

Through building automation based on real-time data, your tenants always have a perfectly engineered and managed environment. They never feel too cold, or too warm in their workplace. They don’t experience headaches from too much artificial light. They always find clean facilities and equipment. The reliable management of your building benefits their productivity. If they have a productive day in your workplace, over time, they associate their productivity with the ambiance created by your smart building features and keep returning.

A New York Times article states “evidence shows when it comes to decision making, indoor air may matter more than we have realized.” The article describes a study that placed workers in rooms with different carbon dioxide levels. Everyone had to complete a test. The higher the carbon dioxide in the room, the worse the test-takers did. Carbon dioxide levels can be monitored, and room ventilation actively managed with smart building automation.

Tenants can use mobile applications to reserve their preferred hot desk or workspace before their visit. They can be guaranteed the perfect environment to ramp up their own productivity.

The thermostat of a smart building

Tenant Safety

Your primary concern should be the safety of your tenants. No one should ever be harmed using your facilities. A potential risk in buildings is inefficient fire and safety hazard procedures. Smart building features detect any faults with your equipment before problems occur. This could be printers, computers, lights, anything that could lead to a fire. Your smart building technology can automatically arrange for someone to fix these issues at the earliest moment possible. Your tenants are never waiting long periods for technicians to be called.

Tenant Health

Since 2020, our eyes have been opened to the reality of viruses and other illnesses that can be spread between people. Overcrowding causes discomfort for workers. Without technology, it is difficult to know when a specific space has reached full capacity. Too many people in the same space impacts air quality and leads to noise distraction. Through occupancy monitoring, you can detect overcrowding and prevent it. Maybe you find too many people gathering around a printer, showing you that this area would benefit from another one. Sensors on surfaces and objects detect when they have been touched. This data can be used to know when they require cleaning.

How ITVET can Help

Any building can adopt smart building features with support from expert smart building consultants.

Having a digital strategy

ITVET works to create a tailored digital strategy for your asset that will fill all your data and reporting requirements. Your digital strategy is what makes the development of your smart building project seamless and hassle-free. Your digital strategy drives the building stage of your smart building. Working with a vast array of subcontractors for various parts of a smart building project can become really complex and chaotic. Having an overarching network, systems and data strategy, means that you do not need to rely on the compliance of multiple subcontractors. There is a clear and tailored vision that is expertly executed from day one.

The importance of expertise and support

Smart buildings work efficiently because all the individual data streams are sent wirelessly to a network. What happens if this network is down? ITVET are leading providers of IT support and we monitor your network 24/7. We provide security for your network. This security is designed to protect the confidentiality and accessibility of your network and data from online attackers. Our expertise is from our team of smart building specialists who have done this before on a vast scale. Together we have delivered many successful smart building projects.

ITVET Smart Building Project Examples

One Heddon Street Co-Working space

One Heddon Street

One Heddon Street‘s strapline is Work. Space. Redefined. One Heddon Street ensures workers have the perfect environment for productivity. They offer flexible memberships for tenants to use their space. Smart building features really elevate the space, making it an attractive workspace.  

The selling points include:

  • 1GB of resilient Wi-Fi.
  • Thermal comfort – Tenants have access to change the temperature of where they are seating to suit them.
  • Biodiversity – There is a living wall, indoor garden and trees are planted on each floor to create a relaxing ambiance.
  • Indoor air quality – The fresh air supply to the offices is 50% above the minimum recommended level.

The Crystal

The Crystal holds accreditation for being one of the world’s greenest buildings. This stunning venue successfully hosts events in the Royal Docks, London. The smart building has seven equipped meeting rooms, a state-of-the-art auditorium, and other event spaces. The smart building features allow The Crystal to attract the eco-conscious clientele to host their events there.

What makes The Crystal stand out?

  • 80% of its hot water is heated by solar energy and ground source heat pumps.
  • 70% less CO2 emissions compared to other offices in the UK.
  • Tenants can easily control lighting, temperature, microphone volume, all from a tablet or phone.  

A smart building begins with smart design followed by careful engineering, and then cabling and infrastructure. It does not end there. A smart building’s features run on a network backbone that must be maintained through expert IT support. Smart building features attract premium tenants. They are the most cost-effective approach to running your property asset. Want to find out how our specialist team can transform your building? Get in touch today.


Cloud Technology: What you need to know


Win over the challenges of rapid digitalisation, by mobilising cloud-based technology and moving your company data to the cloud. Moving towards cloud-based practices and data servers will boost your IT infrastructure enabling you to focus on developing opportunities.

More and more companies are opting for cloud infrastructure, taking their organisational data as well as applications to secure Cloud based central hub with collective access. Cloud technology is at the top of the agenda in business transformation. The resulting impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) increases the potential of this technology multifariously.

So now, you find yourself in a position: If you don’t make the move to cloud computing, how will your company survive in the long term?

Perhaps you are ready to make the move but don’t know where to start, then read on – we have you covered.

What is cloud technology?

Cloud technology has disrupted everyday business operations in every imaginable way. We are shifting away from traditional methods of document sharing-like print, emails, and USB memory sticks-towards using cloud and live-stream applications.

Cloud facilities have everything hosted over a cluster of networks,referred to as a virtual space. This space is the storage unit for files, applications, and other enterprise resources, replacing traditional physical servers. Once the organisational infrastructure is moved to the cloud, it frees a business from the shackles of a physical location. With the huge increase in remote working it has given the cloud a new dimension, by allowing teams to work collaboratively, and flexibly unconstrained by their geographical location or their shift patterns.

When integrating IoT devices, cloud computing solutions such asMicrosoft Azure help fetch data from each device and use it for analytics and reporting purposes.


So, what does that mean in the real world?

Consider that you have a business in London, and your office is the direct point of contact for employees as well as customers. If you need to work on a shared file with an employee in a different branch or city, traditionally you might have emailed the file back and forth and may have several versions of the file saved on unrelated servers, or worse still on local machines. This can lead to errors in the document with changes being hard to track, plus can be insecure. Approval workflows can also be complicated.

Cloud technology allows data to be stored in a central server location, secured by the cloud service provider. All you need to do is grant access to the specific employees. Since the application is hosted over a virtual space, employees can log in to the server and access files 24/7 from any location in the world. Easy, right? Tools such as Microsoft 365, which includes SharePoint, allow document version control, automatic back up to the cloud and easy collaboration. This ensures that errors are reduced, and productivity is maximised, because of improved workflow and security of data.

Now, this is just one minute aspect of cloud technology. Adopting the right cloud technology strategy has the potential to turn the tides.

The Microsoft cloud adoption framework is a great template for creating a better cloud implementation strategy in line with your business and technology requirements.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Custom access control and running the office network without being in the building seems fascinating, but is the technology worth the hype?

Smoother and Faster Operations

The first, most vital advantage of using cloud solutions for your business is that it inevitably helps reduce operational cost. Cloud solutions reduce end-to-end operation costs by increasing the speed of operations, resulting in a greater output. It improves communication and helps teams sync data better. There is an initial investment in infrastructure, but there after it is a pay-as-you-go system, meaning that you never have to pay more than what you use.

Businesses can raise the quality of their services, reduce the turnaround time for tasks, and enhance processes with cloud deployment. With it, they can improve their profitability. That is why the cost of moving the entire infrastructure to Cloud is relative in the long-term.

The ease to store and access documents online reduces paperwork. This improves communications across the business and opens access to important data which might previously have been siloed by department. Less paperwork, more efficiency and less paper, reducing your carbon footprint.

Thankfully, cloud technology is more secure, more resilient, and fully redundant. In fact, if you plan and execute the migration effectively it will help reduce your cost of operation in the long-term.

All in all, if you weigh up the investment against the benefits-its a win/win.

Security at the top

As a business, you are responsible for anything and everything that happens with the data you own. So, it is important that the IT infrastructure is robust and secure, reducing the risk of data privacy compromise. When you move your infrastructure to the cloud, you may worry that shifting data will add vulnerability.

Cloud technology ensures end-to-end data encryption throughout transfer and storage. Cloud service providers also have inhouse IT security experts, working day in and out to monitor the network and keep it free from cyberattacks.

The move to working from home and IOT may generate other vulnerabilities for businesses, however, there are simple tools available to protect you. This includes laptop encryption, VPN login, and Multi-factor Authentication which can be implemented quickly and easily. ITVET can work with you to provide more tools to ensure Cloud security and secure your business.

Provide Flexibility to your Organisation

Running a business means you have multiple things to take care of. Imagine the time you have spent dealing with IT issues and data storage. How many times are you unable to focus on your customer, running the risk of losing out? This is where cloud technology can help.

Cloud computing servers are flexible and have a team of highly skilled engineers working behind the scenes to regularly monitor the system around the clock, ensuring there are no interruptions.

Cloud technology also delivers on scalability. If you wish to increase your bandwidth at any point, you can do it quickly and swiftly, usually at the touch of a button.

Analytics for better decision-making through in-depth insights

Data is of huge importance to businesses today. With every device generating tons of data each day, it is important to make sense of this data and use it to make informed business decisions.

Cloud computing technology helps you with cloud analytics rendering custom-fit reports on organisation-wide data. This helps get in-depth insights on everything that is happening within the organisation and modifying your strategic decisions and improve performance and efficiency.

Are ready to start transforming your business with cloud technology? ITVET have over 12 years’ experience in delivering end-to-end cloudsolutions. We have a diverse portfolio and experience in deploying cloud solutions to organisations across a multitude of industries.Get in touch today and claim your FREE IT audit.


Managed IT Services: What you need to know


Are you finding that your internal IT teams are getting weighed down by day-to-day IT issues? Are you lacking time to deal with pressing issues such as strategic planning, transformation, and organisational growth? If you answered yes to either of the above then outsourcing your IT to a third-party managed IT services provider (MSP) might be a great way to free up your internal resource – without taking on additional overhead in-house.

Having a managed IT services partner on hand 24/7, could be just what you need. This article will outline how to identify the best managed IT services provider for your business. Let us start with explaining what Managed IT services is.


What is a managed IT service?

IT services that have been outsourced to a third-party organisation or a managed IT service provider are referred to as the managed IT services. Unlike traditional IT services, managed IT services give providers the privilege to take strategic business decisions in addition to providing IT support to the clients. Some providers act as technology consultants to their clients and operate on a continuous contract with allocated resourcing as opposed to on-demand providers of IT support.

A leading managed IT service provider (MSP) will have a team of skilled engineers and professionals that work in partnership with the IT department of the client to create a collaborative relationship on a basis of continuous communication. An MSP can also provide managed networks services to larger organisations.


Why do you need managed IT services?

Managed IT Services can transform the way you run and operate your business. Unlike the traditional in-house IT teams, moving to managed IT services can offer many benefits.


Focus on important IT tasks

Outsourcing IT services to a third-party organisation allows you to focus on other important tasks. It can provide you clarity and objectivity that may not be available for a team emersed in day-to-day operations. As a matter of fact, the company will have more time to plan and innovate rather than worrying about their everyday IT requirements or issues.

It also gives you immediate access to a breadth of specialist IT technicians, developers, project managers etc, who have experience across industries, in providing expertise to businesses of varying scales.

Often when you move to a managed IT services model, your IT support partner will handle all relationships with your IT technology providers, including billing, purchases and contracts. This means that you no longer have multiple suppliers to manage for your leased lines, phones systems, cloud services and IT equipment – but a single point of contact, with support available 24/7 should you opt for an outsourced service desk. This reduces your admin and allows you to focus on matters that really drive your performance.


Help Mitigate IT Risks

With your data security being totally reliant on the security of your IT infrastructure, it is vitally important that your network security is robust and secured.

Understanding the constantly evolving complexities of modern technology and the ever-changing cyber security threat is a full-time job. It is not realistic for most organisations to recruit a network security specialist in-house. By outsourcing this capability, you can ensure that you are equipped with the latest relevant advice as and when you need it.

You will have security in the knowledge that you will always have someone who is available and monitoring your company’s cyber security. The team will be utilising the latest tools and technology to protect you and your clients, for example, network security, anti-virus protection, filtering, and penetration testing. In the event of a major incident, your managed IT service provider will also have a full plan for Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR), this assures you and your clients that, should you face a crisis, you will be safe hands.

The MSPs take immense care about security standards like PCI and ISO compliance. They should also adhere to the standards and assure that the organisation abides by the regulations, making sure that all policies are adhered to.


Regular updates to your IT

As well as mitigating potential cyber security risks, managed IT service providers conduct regular updates to your IT equipment, and IT infrastructure. They assess and monitor the IT ecosystem making sure software is current and functioning optimally. This guarantees that your staff are always using IT equipment that enables maximum productivity and that any issues or upgrades are dealt with, with minimum impact to your staff.

Your managed service provider is well placed to select the best IT technology providers as they are experts in the field and stay informed on the latest innovations and what IT products are best value for your money.


Cost-effective IT departments

By integrating managed IT services within your business, you can uplift your efficiency and capability, whilst retaining a lower financial exposure. The wealth of knowledge and experience provisioned in a managed IT services partnership can lead to changes and improvements in process and technology that enhance your business and raise your outputs.

If you are an IT manager for your business, you will be able to concentrate on adding true value and relieve your responsibility for the day-to-day technical IT processes of your department.

Irrespective of whether you are a small-scale start-up or a well-established organisation, managed IT services offer effective solutions for all. Where an in-house team can provide a valuable conduit for internal discussions, outsourcing regulates your overall expense – making it a win-win for all.


Components of an ideal managed IT service model

Managed IT services experts help business enterprises with their IT day in and day out. But what should you be looking for from a top managed IT service provider? Here is what an ideal end-to-end IT service model should include:


A full spectrum of IT services

Make sure that the service provider you go ahead with – provides an extensive set of managed IT services outside those in your requirements. For example, an all-in-one managed IT services provider that offers end-to-end consultation on the existing network infrastructure but is also able to provide the equipment and the support to make the changes required.

Your Managed IT provider should work alongside your IT department, as an integrated part of that team, to understand the overall infrastructure and highlight the pain points to further improve the functionality of the business. By choosing a provider who has a full spectrum of IT capability you will ensure that you create a relationship with an IT partner who will continue to drive your business forward into the future.


24/7 Support Services

Your managed IT service provider should always be ready to provide support. Whether you seek to outsource your technical IT issues for resolution entirely externally or want to work in collaboration – round the clock IT technical support services will help you in making sure that your business operations never get affected because of the hired team.

Providers should offer a dedicated account representative, support service dashboards, online and telephone support, and onsite resource.


Digital transformation

Planning to migrate to the cloud or looking for cloud advisory services? Not sure whether to go for a hybrid cloud model or move all your data onto a hosted cloud?

Your managed IT services partner will be able to support you in your objectives to future proof your enterprise. They will have in-house IT experts for cloud-based solutions, helping you to modernize your IT infrastructure and migrate both data and applications to the cloud infrastructure. Preferably, they will have a separate team of professionals that work closely to identify gaps and assist you in making the move.

From consultation to Integration, implementation, management, and support, they should be able to provide all types of cloud-native solutions. By using a managed IT services partner who understands your business, you can strip out complexity and effort from an already challenging modernisation.


Network Security Review

Network security is crucial to every modern organisation, the best managed IT services providers will complete a cyber security review. By conducting an end-to-end assessment of the existing infrastructure, scanning all endpoints internally and externally testing software applications, and reporting on the robustness of the IT infrastructure – they should be able to handle everything.

Additionally, they should provide suggestions to close gaps and strengthen the IT infrastructure of your organisation – keeping you free from doubt with your data security.


Compressing your IT supply chain by providing a single point of contact

An ideal managed IT services partner must have services to fulfil all your requirements. They will be able to take on responsibility for your IT equipment suppliers or negotiate new contracts to reduce your overhead and improve your technology and productivity. They will be able to give you expert advice on the most effective partners and help design your IT services to include IT technology which works most effectively for your business. Whether it’s your telephony or VoIP solutions, leased lines or cloud software provider, your IT partner will help you build excellent business relationships and deliver outstanding customer experience through the provision of expert IT support services.


Consultation and development solutions

Whilst it is not mandatory, we think it is advantageous to choose a managed IT services provider who has this capability in-house. If you find a team that could deliver consultancy or custom development services, it will ensure that you get the most for from your partnership.

We always make sure that we are equipped with experienced leading industry engineers and software developers to help organisations develop technology and implement change smoothly and effectively. That way, we enable clients to run lean and agile IT departments in a cost-effective way.


Cost and business hours

Finally – you should make sure that the rate model followed by your chosen IT infrastructure solutions provider must match your budget and preference. If that’s not the case and you still want to go ahead with a particular team – ask if they could provide custom offers or if things are negotiable. We recommend you seek an inclusive service with a fixed budget per month to ensure that there are no hidden extras

We recommend going with a service provider with an all hours active policy. It will ensure that all your vital tasks are carried out without disrupting everyday operations. Such providers can give you an outsourced service desk and an option for 24/7 support.


The Final Word

Managed IT Service providers help businesses operate with ease by managing your IT services in their entirety. As our reliance on IT technology and software across all aspects of a business increases, the need for specialist, trustworthy support for IT services and related infrastructure is becoming imperative.

By taking care of all the aspects outlined above, a managed IT service provider can act as your technical IT support and guidance – leaving you to focus on driving your business forward. Whether it’s network design, 24/7 IT support, hardware & software management, Wi-Fi services, cloud services, communication enablement, or development – the right managed IT services partnership will improve your operations, revenue, and performance as an organisation and help your company soar.

To learn more about managed IT services and the value it can bring to your business…
Contact ITVET now and get your free IT audit.


5 companies using technology to change the face of retail

Technology is booming in retail. With the High Street under threat, tech companies are developing ways to optimise the retail experience. The physical store has not changed over the last century but the shopper has. With the vast changes in technology over the last 20 years, the retail sector is lagging behind. These five tech startups are examples of how adapting the retail environment and analysing data can revolutionise the shopping experience.

Retail technology data

Retail Report allows big data to be harnessed to improve sales and customer experience

1. Retail Report

Data isn’t just online, it’s everywhere and growing fast. Data is invaluable for analysing the performance of any business, but it is a powerful tool for monitoring the standards of a retail store or centre.

Retail Report allows this data to be harnessed – it automatically collects data from around a centre and uploads it to a secure cloud portal. It then uses algorithm technology to turn this information into manageable and insightful reports, allowing management to develop and improve their centres. The sentirating feature, for example, monitors social media feeds and immediately alerts management to any sudden negative downturns in sentiment – often notifying of complaints such as long queues or broken lifts etc.

2. Augment

Augment uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology to increase conversion rates by creating an omnichannel retail experience to drive engagement and sales. Their service allows customers to try products in lifelike AR through their own device at home. This real-time augmented reality experience for retail removes the guesswork when shopping online and facilitates the path to purchase. Connecting offline and online shopping platforms not only drives sales but also makes the purchasing process easier and more convenient.

AR technology is currently fresh and exciting, making it a valuable marketing tool with the power to engage potential customers on a new level. However, while novel, AR also improves the buying process. By engaging with a product, a customer is more likely to feel comfortable making a purchase – especially on high ticket items such as furniture.

Retail technology robot

Robots are being used to complete manual and repetitive tasks

3. Simbe robotics

Robots and robotics are being used in customer service roles and retail is no exception. Many businesses are finding robots can be used to complete manual and perhaps mundane work. Simbe robotics’ autonomous shelf auditing and analytics robot, Tally performs tasks such as auditing shelves for out of stock items and pricing errors.

Tally undertakes the repetitive and laborious tasks and operates safely during normal store hours alongside shoppers and employees. Tally is equipped with a charging dock that it can autonomously navigate for continuous operation. The robot includes a suite of sensors enabling it to operate reliably and safely in retail environments while capturing information on the state of merchandise in the store. The data captured by the robot is sent securely to the cloud for processing and analysis. The data is then exposed through both an API and front-end application alongside specific recommendations to improve store performance to key stakeholders.

 4. Oak Labs

Oak Labs aims to bridge the gap between the online and offline world and create intuitive customer experiences. Their feature product, The Oak Mirror, is an interactive, touch-screen mirror creating an interactive fitting room experience. It allows shoppers to customize their fitting room’s ambiance, explore product recommendations and digitally seek assistance from store associates.  Shoppers who use dressing rooms are seven times more likely to make a purchase than those who just browse the sales floor.

Some technologies may be great for marketing, but technologies such as Oak Lab aim to take away the painful or inconvenient aspects of shopping. Driving sales in physical stores is essential considering the dramatic takeover of online shopping and retail stores must adapt.

Retail technology

 Making visiting stores an experience is key to combating online sales

5. Brickwork

Brickwork also aims to change the shopping experience by merging the online and offline experience. Brickwork gives retailers the tools to turn online traffic into physical footfall. With Brickwork, retailers can activate web & mobile browsers to deliver more customers into their local stores. Up to 80% of all customers who buy in brick & mortar initially look at products or retail websites. Brickwork allows retailers to engage with these customers and draw them in store.

The physical and digital worlds are no longer separate entities and the borders between the two are beginning to merge. Technology is allowing the best features of online shopping to feature in brick-and-mortar stores to create an omni-channel experience.

Connecting with a shopper’s smartphone opens up a myriad of possibilities of how to reach shoppers in new ways. Digital displays can show items that a shopper may have recently looked at online, but not purchased. Plus, if the shopper touches the item on screen an assistant will be notified to bring the item over. Alternatively, if the item is out of stock, the assistant is able to suggest alternatives based on the shopper’s past purchasing behaviour. Such technologies allow for a more personal experience, especially as mobile detection beacons can notify store assistants of your arrival, allowing them to greet you.

Automation and data analysis is the future and our partners at RetailReport can unlock the power that data holds for your organisation. For your free demo, contact us on 01279 215 915 or email [email protected].