EBS News – Autumn 2020

Welcome

 

Welcome to our Autumn newsletter where you’ll find all the latest news and information on technology that will help your business.
This edition covers everything from the cybersecurity to the latest updates from our Sage add-ons partners. Simply click on the link to the item on the left to go straight to the article in question.

EBS is 40

EBS is 40 years old this year. When I was asked to write a short newsletter introduction about this topic, I thought wow, where do I start? Unbelievable as it might sound, we do still have a couple of customers who were there at the start and have grown their business alongside ours. However, for the majority of our customers, it’s fair to say that the history of EBS is probably not something that people know much about. So, here goes.

Electronic Business Systems Ltd was incorporated in 1979, but actually started trading in 1980. It originally sold business machines including fax, typewriters and early business computer hardware.

EBS was owned by 4 people, Fred Chamberlain, Peter Godden, Len Bane and Patrick Underwood. Fred was in charge of sales and was MD, Peter was stationery and consumables, Len was a hardware engineer and Patrick was product development. EBS was located close to Spaghetti Junction on the Tyburn Road in Birmingham. We also had a sister company called Albany Office Equipment, which sold stationery and consumables to accompany the hardware and office equipment that we sold. Albany Office Equipment had a showroom on Birmingham’s famous Broad Street.

In the early 80s EBS won a contract to supply the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) with hardware which would print DWP giro cheques for the unemployed and benefit claimants. By the mid-80s EBS had written software to run on a new style giro machine which allowed the automated processing and more secure giro printing. We also produced a version for HMRC which allowed them to upload of a list of recipients to the giro machine for continuous multiple printing rather than each giro being processed individually.

In the late 80s EBS started selling a software called ‘Fairway’ which was an ERP solution for bookkeeping and accounting. Due to obtaining the source code, Fairway could be altered and bespoked to a client’s specification.

I joined EBS in autumn 1987 as a 20 year old to assist in the accounts department and hopefully become a software developer.

In the very early 90s EBS became a Sky Software reseller. SkyBase was an ERP solution build upon a language called RETRIEVE 4GL. Sky Software became Sage and SkyBase became Line100 (and subsequently Sage 200) very shortly afterwards.

I left EBS in 1996 to start my own business reselling and developing Sage solutions.

In 1999 two of the owners retired, I re-joined EBS in 2000 on the understanding that I would be able to acquire the business when the other two owners retired.

Patrick Underwood retired in 2002. EBS then acquired Myratech, which was one of the UK’s leading Sage resellers. Then EBS relocated to bigger premises which were still on Tyburn road.

In 2005, the first version of our in-house developed REACT case management software was released, written in Microsoft Access. REACT was written for a client in social housing to case manage anti-social behaviour, and has subsequently now grown to be the UK’s leading community safety case management solution.

Fred Chamberlain decided to retire in 2007 and true to his word, I was offered EBS and was able to undertake a management buyout. No sooner had the sale completed, the world plunged into the financial crisis and the UK nosedived straight into the ‘Great Recession’, which was an extremely unwelcome introduction to running a business!

Over the following years, EBS has shown steady and incremental growth and has now doubled in size. Our Sage department and Hardware/Technical Services department work well together with many clients consuming both services from us. EBS  has always believed in delivering excellent customer service and communication built upon its foundation of trust and openness. With these fundamentals in place we find our clients trust us to deliver the correct solution and services upon which their business can depend and grow. Indeed, we have our company motto (stencilled onto an entire wall in the office), ‘The best way to build trust, is to actually be trustworthy‘.

And so we come to 2020, 40 years on, and what a difficult year it has been for us all. Like all SMEs, we have grappled with COVID-19 and seen parts of our business all but disappear. However, we have also seen growth in other areas such as home-working, threat protection and web based telephony. We are lucky enough to have a business model built on recurring revenue, and as such are we in a great position to successfully navigate through the pandemic. I could write a complete newsletter on our COVID experience, but perhaps that’s for another time.

I sincerely hope that your business navigates the difficult period we find ourselves in and emerges stronger and more successful than before. Under normal circumstances we would be throwing a big birthday party for all our clients and suppliers, but this is sadly not to be for obvious reasons. No doubt, when we are all free to gather again in the same location we will ensure your invite will be winging its way to you.

Jason Tullah, Managing Director

Laptop shortage warning

We are seeing a global shortage of laptops at the moment caused by an Intel CPU shortage and increased demand due to home working.

Intel has just opened their long awaited Fab 42 manufacturing facility in Arizona which will increase supply ready for next year, but we are expecting the shortage to continue until then. If you foresee this causing issues for you please contact us as soon as possible so we can make arrangements.

We’re also seeing limited availability of items like webcams too so please get in touch so we can help you source the things you need for your workforce.

Sage 50 Manufacturing end of life announcement

Sage recently announced that, from 30th September 2021, it will no longer provide support for the Sage 50 Manufacturing modules.

This does not mean that the software will cease to function, and EBS will continue to provide support. However, we will have no support from Sage should any issues arise.

There will no longer be any development of the product, which includes the interface between Sage 50 and the manufacturing software. This last part is the most worrying.

Our advice is that you should discuss options with us, as soon as possible, as there are a few potential solutions. We will need to begin planning to ensure continuity.

2020 SonicWall cyber threat report released

Our partner, SonicWall, has launched its annual Cyber Threat Report. This year, understandably, there’s a focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that it has had on the way businesses operate. They rightly point out the opportunities that cyber criminals have exploited, especially aimed at people’s fears of the virus.

They report that while malware attacks are down (UK -27%), ransomware and IoT malware is on the rise. Indeed, the UK is the second highest country for receiving ransomware attacks across the globe. It’s increasingly important to secure your business against these issues. Companies need to review their security on a longer term basis as changes in working patterns and increased remote working affect businesses’ IT plans.

Fortunately, there are actions that you can take to keep your business operational in spite of the increased threats. Contact your account manager for advice.

To read the full report, click here.

Cyber Essentials – What is it, and why do you need it?

The pandemic has seen a sea change in the methods of network access as a raft of employees have moved from working in the office to working from home.

But even before COVID-19, many organisations did not have the necessary security in place to avoid cyber-attacks, often relying on the cognisance of individuals to spot such things as potentially business destroying content in emails. How many of you have received emails that appear to be from one of your directors, asking you to pay for goods or services, that are actually from scammers? If these are getting through, you don’t have adequate protection.

How secure are your systems? Pretty much all businesses have some form of anti-virus solution, but hackers and scammers will bypass old versions. Fewer businesses will have a firewall installed and, even if they do, few will have implemented such security for their teams now working remotely.

Then there’s the need to update and change passwords and update old versions of installed software to the latest releases.

All of these should be considered business critical and addressed. This is part and parcel of Cyber Essentials.

What is Cyber Essentials?

Cyber Essentials is a simple but effective, government-backed scheme that will help you to protect your organisation, whatever its size, against a whole range of the most common cyber attacks.

Cyber attacks come in many shapes and sizes, but the vast majority are very basic in nature, carried out by relatively unskilled individuals. They’re the digital equivalent of a thief trying your front door to see if it’s unlocked. Our advice is designed to prevent these attacks.

There are two levels of certification:

Cyber Essentials

The self-assessment option gives you protection against a wide variety of the most common cyber attacks. This is important because vulnerability to simple attacks can mark you out as target for more in-depth unwanted attention from cyber criminals and others.

Certification gives you peace of mind that your defences will protect against the vast majority of common cyber attacks simply because these attacks are looking for targets which do not have the Cyber Essentials technical controls in place.

Cyber Essentials shows you how to address those basics and prevent the most common attacks.

Cyber Essentials Plus

Cyber Essentials Plus still has the Cyber Essentials trademark simplicity of approach, and the protections you need to put in place are the same, but for Cyber Essentials Plus a hands-on technical verification is carried out.

We at EBS have attained the Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation.

Why should you get Cyber Essentials?

Certified cyber security

  • Reassure customers that you are working to secure your IT against cyber attack
  • Attract new business with the promise you have cyber security measures in place
  • You have a clear picture of your organisation’s cyber security level
  • Some government contracts require Cyber Essentials certification

Alternatively you can familiarise yourself with cyber security terminology, gaining enough knowledge to begin securing your IT. EBS can help get you started.

Where has Microsoft Office gone? New Microsoft 365 information

Just to confuse everyone, Microsoft has renamed Office 365 to Microsoft 365.

So, does this mean that Office isn’t Office any longer? Not as such. As Microsoft 365 offers so much more than Office, “Premium Office Apps” are now part of the subscription, along with a myriad of additional apps and features. Office 2019 remains available to purchase outright for PC but does not have many of the nice new features that can be found in Microsoft 365. Plus, if you change your PC you will likely have to buy the latest version; it’s not advised to run older legacy software. Whilst in the longer-term Microsoft 365 will cost more, it remains up to date and will move to new hardware without additional cost. Additionally, Microsoft 365 Business Standard and Premium include Exchange, so if you have a server that is nearing the time for replacement, cost savings will be made here.

Many businesses have been asking for assistance with Microsoft Teams. So, there is a free version, but this is limited in respect of functionality, compared to a Microsoft 365 subscription, which mostly include Teams.

The free version of Teams limits meeting times to 45 minutes (similar to Zoom). Meetings can be hosted up to 100 attendees. Meetings can be scheduled, but not dynamically with Outlook. Screens can be shared. Up to 10Gb of cloud storage for documents is also included. It has to be said that until you use a full version of Teams, it is difficult to portray how much better it is than the free version. But, if you only want to meet with a limited number of people for a short amount of time, it’s fine.

For business, there are 4 main license types for Microsoft 365:

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic – includes Teams, Exchange, OneDrive plus web versions of Premium Office apps – Word, Excel etc.
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard – as Business Basic plus full Premium Office apps (most popular with EBS clients)
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium – as Business Standard plus additional security and device management
  • Microsoft 365 Apps – includes full Premium Office apps and OneDrive only

If you would like to discuss which option suits your needs best, please call your Account Manager on 0121 384 2513.

If you already have a Microsoft 365 subscription that is directly with Microsoft, EBS can also take over the subscription and manage this for you.

Sage 200 version support status update

In line with standard industry practice, Sage will continue to withdraw support for older versions of Sage 200. This does not mean that versions withdrawn from support will no longer function, but they may not comply with latest technologies or legislation. The table below provides the latest status by version.

Software Version Extended Support End Of Support End Of Life
200cloud – 2020 R1 1st Oct 2023 30th Sep 2024
200cloud – Summer 19 Enhancements 1st Oct 2022 30th Sep 2023 30th Sep 2023**
200cloud – Spring 19 Enhancements 1st Oct 2021 30th Sep 2022 30th Sep 2023**
200cloud – Winter 18 Enhancements 1st Oct 2021 30th Sep 2022 30th Sep 2023**
200cloud – Summer 18 Remastered 1st Oct 2021 30th Sep 2022
200cloud – Summer 18 Enhancements 1st Oct 2021 30th Sep 2022 30th Sep 2023**
200cloud – Spring 18 Enhancements 1st Oct 2020 30th Sep 2021 30th Sep 2022**
200cloud – Winter 17 Enhancements 1st Oct 2020 30th Sep 2021 30th Sep 2022**
200cloud – Summer 17 Remastered 1st Oct 2020 30th Sep 2021
200cloud – Summer 17 Enhancements 1st Oct 2020 30th Sep 2021 30th Sep 2022**
200 Extra 2016 Remastered200 Extra 2016 Remastered 1st Oct 2019 30th Sep 2020
200 Extra 2016 1st Oct 2019 30th Sep 2020 30th Sep 2021**
200 Extra 2015 1st Oct 2018 30th Sep 2019 30th Sep 2021**
200 Extra 2013 (R1 and R2) 1st Nov 2017 31st Oct 2018 30th Sep 2021**
200 Extra 2011 30th Apr 2018*

 

*For those with an End of Life date that signifies that the product cannot be licensed beyond this date.

**For those with an End of Support date – this is different to end of life, the software will still work but Sage cannot provide any guarantees of this due to the age of the infrastructure it is compatible with.

All support for Sage Line 100 ended on 31 March 2014.

All support for Sage MMS ended on 30 September 2014.

 

What does this mean?

  Mainstream Support Extended Support End Of Support
Product available for sale New licence sales are withdrawn from sale once the product enters extended support & beyond. Yes No No
Additional Users and Companies Licence sales of additional users & companies are still available during extended support and end of support. Yes Yes No
Additional Modules Licence sales of modules are no longer available. Yes Yes No
Enable strings Sage 200 systems require an annual enable string to function, which we provide subject to the Sage 200 Services Annual Plan being in place and paid for via the linked Business Partner. Yes Yes Yes
Technical Support For customers with a valid support contract, we provide their Business Partner with access to technical support (no support is provided directly to these customers). Yes Yes No
Developer Support Is offered to BP’s and customers who are members of the Sage 200 Developers Programme. Yes No No
Legislative Updates Are provided by Sage to maintain legal / fiscal compliance. Yes No No
Hot fixes / Bug fixes / Patches / Service packs are provided Yes No No
Defect log Is open Yes No No
Ideas Hub is open Yes No No

If you are unsure about what action you should take, please discuss with your Account Manager at EBS.

Sicon release v20.1 for all solutions

Sicon has just released version 20.1 for most of the portfolio of applications.

Click links below for the latest information.

If you would like more information about any of the modules or enhancements, please contact your EBS Account Manager.

Power BI – Is this everything you ever wanted from a Sage 200 reporting solution?

If you want up to the minute reporting from Sage 200c, what do you currently do?

  • Run a Sage Report from within Sage
  • Export to Excel

Then what do you do if you want to gain insights from the reports?

  • Run a Sage Report from within Sage, but this time with criteria
  • Perhaps use Pivot Tables in Excel

And repeat! And again!

To top it all – everyone still has different results at the Management meeting.

What if there was a better way that will not break the bank??

We believe that there is. Microsoft Power BI.

Power BI is a collection of services, apps and connectors that allow you to work with your Sage 200 data (and other data sources) to turn it into meaningful reports that provide a source of information that is insightful and drillable, without the need for a myriad of equivalent Sage reports or Excel worksheets.

The reports can be shared with others within and outside of your organisation with ease. Never again will you have multiple “versions of the truth” at your management meetings.

For your IT staff, there is no need to constantly produce lots of reports. Criteria are instantly selectable with immediate results.

But Sage 200 has lots of information in different tables and I don’t know what data is where

At EBS, we have thought of that. We are busy building “views” of the Sage 200 data table structures, making it easy for you to quickly build reports. A view brings together, for instance, all of the information from customers, orders, stock, nominal and more; customer name is customer name and sales order number is sales order number, not cust_name or something else that might leave you guessing.

The only question is – what information do you need?

This is only limited by the data you have available. It’s easy to report on any data that has a common entity, but Power BI is not really limited by this either, as other data sources can be included, even Excel itself.

Reports can incorporate information in tables and charts but unlike standard Sage reports or Excel worksheets, it is easy to see any issues that may be impacting your business quickly and simply. And this can be viewed on any device, anywhere.

Some typical examples might be:

  • Customer Sales by Product, by Month by Rep, by Region etc.
  • Slow moving stock by product group, batch
  • Nominal transactions by department against budget
  • Aged Debt
  • Outstanding Purchase Orders
  • And the list goes on

 

Some example screenshots:

Sage 200cloud

Speak with your Account Manager about how you can get started on better reporting for your business.

End of the line for Sage 200 Manufacturing

Sage has recently announced that it is retiring the existing Sage 200 Manufacturing module. Sage will now offer the Sicon suite of manufacturing modules.

The latest information we have is:

  • The standard Sage manufacturing module is no longer available to purchase
  • Extended support will begin for the module from 1st January 2021
  • Existing data tables will remain and Sicon have announced that should you implement Works Order Processing or MRP etc., their modules will read both Sicon and Sage information, providing a seamless migration
  • The Sage 200 Bill of Materials will remain at the core

Along with this announcement, Sage have announced that a 20% discount will be offered against subscription prices for the Sicon Manufacturing modules.

In addition to Manufacturing, EBS supports the complete portfolio of Sicon add-on modules for Sage 200. These include:

  • Shop Floor Data Collection, which works in conjunction with sicon Manufacturing to enable your business to track Works Order Progress and Operations in real-time
  • Barcoding & Warehousing
  • Job Costing
  • Service & Hire Management
  • Cash Flow Manager
  • Documents and Document Capture Automation
  • Purchase Requisitions, Expenses, HR approvals management
  • Intercompany Transactions
  • Sicon CRM *** New*** – more information will be sent out soon

For more information about your next steps with regards to Sage 200 Manufacturing or the Sicon suite of add-ons, please speak with your Account Manager at EBS.

Two new products from Draycir launched

Recently, we ran a webinar showcasing two new products from our partner, Draycir. You will likely be familiar with Draycir if you use their Spindle Document Management solution.

The two new products are Excel Data Bridge and Spindle Report Scheduler. Here’s some information on them:

 

Excel Data Bridge

Simplifies and streamlines data transfer between Excel and Sage 200. If you are rekeying information from Excel into Sage, Excel data bridge will save time and reduce potential keying errors.

See full details here.

 

Spindle Report Scheduler

Spindle Report Scheduler takes both your standard and customised Sage reports and automate their delivery. This saves time and ensures quick delivery of important business information.

You can find out more information here.

If you missed the webinar, you can view it here https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6438860349926419715

For more information on any of the items in this newsletter, please call the team on 0121 384 2513