EBS News – Winter 2021

Welcome

 

Welcome to our Winter newsletter where you’ll find all the latest news and information on technology that will help your business.

 

This edition covers everything from the VoIP solutions to important updates on the retirement of Sage 200 CRM. Simply click on the link to the item on the left to go straight to the article in question.

Sage 200 CRM product retirement

Sage has announced the retirement of Sage200 CRM. Before you panic, Sage CRM (also known as ‘standalone’) is to be offered in its place and new integration software, Qnect 200 will be required to link to Sage 200cloud.

Timelines for the changes are published as follows:

  • 1 March 2021 – New Standalone CRM sales will only be available on subscription.
  • 31 March 2021 – Extended Support for Sage 200 CRM Connector will end.
  • 1 April 2021 – Sage 200 Suite user (a combined Sage 200 Finance and Sage 200 CRM licence) will be retired from sale and will not be included in new sales as entitlement. The base platform price will be reduced to reflect the change.
  • 30 September 2021 – Sage 200 classic integration will be placed into extended support immediately until this date.

What does this mean for existing Sage 200cloud users with Sage 200 CRM?

Existing Sage 200cloud customers currently using Sage 200 CRM (i.e. more than one suite or one Sage 200 CRM user), can continue to purchase additional Desktop or CRM users from the Sage 200 price list. Suite users will no longer be an option from 1 April 2021.

If you wish to:

  • Move to Qnect 200 – Sage will perform a licence migration and separate your Sage 200 and CRM registrations.
  • Obtain Sage CRM 2020 R2 or later versions to use with Sage 200cloud, you will need to migrate to Qnect 200. Sage will need to perform a licence migration and separate your Sage 200 and CRM registrations. Please note Sage states that it is unable to offer registration migrations earlier than 1 April 2021. However, Sage will provide a temporary CRM key that expires on 1 April 2021 to support migrations until their systems are ready. An extension to this key can be given prior to migrations being undertaken.

Note: no licence migrations will be performed before 1 April 2021.

What is Qnect 200?

Qnect 200 is a subscription-based connector for Sage CRM and Sage 200cloud. This effectively replaces the classic integration and the Sage connector. Qnect 200 provides real-time integration for:

  • Multiple Sage 200 trading companies
  • Instant Sage 200 customer creation
  • Customer and Supplier synchronisation
  • Quotes/Orders using Sage 200 products
  • Real-time Account views
  • Real-time Sales Order views
  • Real-time Sales Returns views
  • Sage 200 Customer price enquiries
  • Viewing live stock availability for products
  • Product level tax and warehouse selection
  • Posting CRM orders to Sage 200

There is a major advantage to moving forward with Qnect 200 in that you will now be able to upgrade Sage CRM and Sage 200cloud independently of each other in the future, making decisions to upgrade easier. Upgrades will be simpler to manage and will be reflected in the services required being less.

EBS will discuss your options regarding the above with you over the coming weeks. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any immediate questions or would like a demonstration.

NEW – Sicon CRM

We are excited to announce that Sicon has released a brand-new product. Sicon CRM was launched at the annual Partner Conference which, this year, was a virtual event.

This module is a highly functional CRM solution with company, contact, case, opportunity, tasks, notes and reminders, all fully integrated with Sage 200. There are some incredible features (listed below). For users outside of Sage there is also a mobile app and web version to ensure every user is always connected.

If you do not need a CRM solution, Sicon CRM can be used at a rudimentary level to store additional customer information and can be used simply as a task manager with automated reminders and email integration.

Some of the features of Sicon CRM are below (depending on your choice of web or mobile client):

  • Migrate and link all existing Sage 200 customers, suppliers and contacts into CRM.
  • Create company and contact records for prospects, engineers, admin contacts or prospective suppliers without creating sales or purchase ledger accounts in Sage 200.
  • Option to create sales and purchase ledger accounts later and link the contact record details to them.
  • Create additional contacts against sales and purchase accounts where the CRM users have no access to the Sage 200 ledgers.
  • Create opportunities from Sage 200 quotes and track quotes through to orders with lost/won statistics.
  • Manage project-based opportunities where multiple clients may request the same quote for a single project.
  • Keep notes and actions completed or set tasks and reminders for yourself or other users on sales orders, purchase orders, stock items or other Sage 200 modules.
  • A Sage 200 desktop list provides a list of tasks, actions and reminders assigned to the user.
  • Pop-up reminders are provided for tasks and notes with due dates and times.
  • Mobile app provided for external sales personnel including access to accounts data and products/sales history plus client visit reports.
  • Data security maintained between allocated sales staff and customer sales data via territory controls.
  • Notification to salespeople of reminders set for them in Sage 200 against orders and accounts.
  • Notification of overdue activities.
  • Filter contacts based on user-definable criteria to produce e-marketing lists.
  • Simple ‘per named user’ licensing for both Sage 200 and mobile users.
  • Activity reports available for any user on all completed activities or activities scheduled to be complete.
  • Reports available in Sage 200 report designer to allow simple amenability and new report creation.

We recently provided an overview on a webinar. The recording of this can be viewed here.

Pricing is based on the features required and starts at just £10 per month per user.

If you would like to discuss this in more detail, please contact your Account Manager.

EBS attains Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation

In the last edition we wrote about Cyber Essentials, a government endorsed scheme to help businesses prevent themselves from cyber-attacks. We are proud to announce that we have received Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation. We would encourage you to consider this too.

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 are the digital equivalent of a thief trying your front door to see if it is unlocked. Our advice is designed to prevent these attacks.

Why should you consider becoming accredited?

  • Certified cyber security
  • Reassure your 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.

There are two levels of certification:

Cyber Essentials

Our 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. EBS can help you with this.

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.

You will likely need to work with a Cyber Essentials consultant to ensure that all details and documentation are completed.

What are the Security Controls of the Cyber Essentials Scheme?

There are 5 main security controls:

Firewalls & Internet Gateways

To achieve Cyber Essentials certification, you need to ensure that all your internet-connected devices are protected by a firewall, a virtual boundary that protects your system and devices from incoming threats. Firewalls police incoming web traffic and decide whether to allow it through to your network. This is even more critical with many of us working from home.

A firewall can be set up to surround just your device or your entire network, depending on the complexity of your business needs.

It is important to make sure that it is not only computers are protected, but all devices, such as tablets, smartphones, etc. And if you are using these devices to connect to the Internet away from your office, especially using public Wi-Fi – where security levels are unknown, the firewall should be configured accordingly.

Secure Configuration

A secure configuration just means making sure you have opted for the best security settings on your devices and software. However, there may be numerous applications on any device that are not used and may never be used. Largely, these applications will be ignored and may be a source of attack as they will have potentially standard logins and passwords – fodder for cyber criminals. These applications should be deleted if not needed. For those applications that you need and use, you should always use strong, unique password (you can easily remember) – and make sure they are secure passwords, not ‘admin’, ‘password’, or anything that can be easily guessed. Of course, this equally applies to existing devices – and will need to be achieved prior to applying for certification.

The government recommends the additional use of PINs and/or touch-ID to increase security, and two-factor authentication (2FA) for the utmost security. 2FA is when, for example, you log in to a website and it sends a code as an email or text message for additional ID verification.

User Access Control

It is vital to make sure that only authorised individuals are granted access to those applications required to perform their tasks. In the event of a cyber security threat, you want to minimise what the attacker could access.

This will need some tailoring from one user to the next. Administrators will need greater access than regular staff, but it is worth checking how many users have administrative privileges – you may find the number has crept up over the years, or that security has lapsed to the point that the admin login details are widely known.

Permissions and passwords should be reset, and a security protocol introduced to ensure all users are aware of the importance of maintaining best practice.

Administrators’ activities should also be restricted since Internet browsing/shopping/chatting could leave an account vulnerable to intrusion. Effectively, attackers would have access to everything the administrator does, giving them a great deal more opportunities for exploitation.

Finally, all software should only be downloaded from approved sites, which will ensure it meets the required security standards – and does not come with malware attached.

Malware Protection

Most of you will have reputable anti-virus software, including EBS’ managed anti-virus solutions. This is only one element of what is required to achieve Cyber Essentials. In addition to software, there is an element of self and staff education on how viruses and malware get onto your systems. For instance:

  • Don’t download email attachments from senders you do not know, or if you do know the sender but the email looks suspicious.
  • Don’t use removable storage devices (e.g., thumb drives) when you don’t know their origin.
  • Steer clear of dodgy websites. How do you know if a website is secure? The address will usually start with ‘https’ – the ‘s’ indicates it has an SSL certificate, meaning any sensitive information you input is protected. Websites with nothing to hide will also have proper contact information, a privacy policy and a trust seal. Even so, look out for obvious signs of malicious content, including ads promoting miracle cures, suspicious pop-ups, terrible spelling and grammar – or just plain nonsense text.

Patch Management

Cyber Essentials certification requires that you keep your devices, software, and apps up to date – also known as ‘patching’ or ‘patch management’, since the manufacturers are effectively patching holes in their software. If you are running with outdated and unsupported operating systems on your PCs or servers, you will not gain Cyber Essentials accreditation (i.e. Windows XP or Windows 7).

How many times do you ignore an application warning that an update is pending? Updates not only generally add new features, but they also update security holes that could be exploited.

 

Whether you wish to go down the path of Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation, the fact remains that the above five security protocols need to be in place to ensure that you are protected against cyber-attack, in whatever form that may take. It really is no longer enough to think that you can rely on anti-virus software alone.

EBS can provide consultancy to help you achieve Cyber Essentials:

  • Fixed price for consultant to visit to complete the readiness assessment.
  • Security and patch management: We will assess how security and patch management are configured within your environment.
  • Firewalls: We will assess the configuration of your firewalls and deliver a report outlining areas of concern and actions that needs to take place to address any issues found.
  • Malware Protection: We will assess your current anti-virus approach to assess its level to meet certification for Cyber Essentials.
  • User Access Control: We will assess user access controls currently in place including items such as user permissions and security policies.
  • Backups: We will review your current backup approach to ensure that it meets the requirements and is the most effective approach for your environment.
  • Assist you in the filling out of the forms for Cyber Essentials accreditation (Cyber Essentials Plus a third-party consultant will be required).

 

5 questions:

  • Do you have a next-gen Firewall such as a SonicWall?
  • Do you have good password and security protocols in place?
  • Who has admin passwords for your systems and software?
  • What anti-virus and mail filtering do you have in place e.g. EBS managed AV and Mimecast?
  • Is all your software and operating systems up to date?

 

If your answer to any of the above is “No” or “Don’t know”, speak to your account manager for further advice.

VAT Changes from April 2021

Not only have businesses been faced with changes to VAT recording and VAT return reporting, as a result of Brexit, there are some further changes coming from April 2021 to potentially be aware of.

This will mostly affect businesses or traders under the VAT threshold, who choose to register and opted to submit returns for VAT electronically. However, some of those above the threshold should be aware that HMRC is removing the XML channel. If you, your accountant or agent are using the XML method, this option will be removed in the new tax year 2021.

See a more in-depth article published on Sage’s Advice portal – https://www.sage.com/en-gb/blog/voluntary-vat-file-vat-returns/

EBS Product Information Management System (PIMS)

A PIMS system is a web-based solution that acts as ‘king’ for all aspects of product data from concept through to sale.

EBS has developed a PIMS system that is fully integrated with Sage 200cloud Professional and Magento eCommerce, removing the need for multiple methods of creating, storing, and updating data.

The integration happens in ‘real-time’ and is controlled by comprehensive workflows and data validation rules.

Product creation is designed to be a step-by-step process, allowing individual responsibilities to be in the same area before moving onto the next phase of product design.  The system notifies users of required inputs and also retains audit logging to ensure data consistency and accuracy.

Our product is continuously evolving in terms of ERP and website integration, along with its own functionality.  We are also able to create client specific functionality should there be a need.

Should you not need a full PIMS system EBS have also developed a ‘Data Manager’ tool that allows businesses to quickly and easily transfer data between your ERP system and your website.

EBS PIMS System Screenshot

EBS PIMS Screenshot

If you would like to discuss PIMS in more detail, please contact your Account Manager.

Brexit – the final word?

Hopefully you have come through the Brexit changes unscathed. The EBS Sage support line has certainly been very busy since the beginning of the new year with calls around new VAT and documentation!

Whilst there are workarounds to address new requirements in prior versions, many of you have, or are upgrading to, the latest release of Sage 200cloud Professional (2020R2), which was released on 22 December 2020. This version is Brexit ready.

If you are unsure whether you need an upgrade please click here to check out the Sage Brexit Hub for a helpful checklist and more information. Or, please contact EBS Support or your Account Manager.

Online Backup

With more people working from home, changing of backup media can be a real hassle. Additionally, the integrity of your backups and business could be affected. Forgetting to change the media is often the case too. EBS offers an online backup solution which takes away this headache.

Online Backup is designed to provide a streamlined, cloud-first data protection service for physical and virtual servers, workstations and business documents.  Online Backup can help reduce the cost and complexity of data protection—without sacrificing speed or reliability.  Storage in a UK based private cloud is included with a fair usage policy of 500GB per server.

 

Features Benefits
·      Rapid Recovery – Online Backup uses the faster recovery source – from either your LocalSpeedVault or the cloud.

·      Safe cloud storage – The UK data centers meet or exceed ISO compliancy, and backups use AES 256-bit encryption in transit and at rest.

·      Optimised for Fast Data Transfer to help minimise bandwidth usage

·      Full Virtual Bare Metal Recovery

·      Granular File Recovery

·      Supports Physical & Virtual Servers

·      Incremental Backup – 256KB blocks, only uploads changes

·      Backups Monitored by EBS

·      No need to change backup drives each day

·      No risk of lost/stolen/damaged backup drives

·      No backup hardware costs

·      No backup software costs

·      Keep an optional on-premises LocalSpeedVault for Fast Recovery

·      Optional Monthly Archives

·      28-day retention of Backups vs the normal 5-7 days with traditional backup

Lock Your Office Down

One of the security controls of Cyber Essentials is around password policies.

Many of you will or have already moved to Microsoft 365 (Office 365). Microsoft 365 is highly targeted by cyber criminals. Passwords are the most common method of authenticating a sign-in to a computer or online service, but they are also the most vulnerable. People can choose easy passwords and use the same passwords for multiple sign-ins to different computers and services.

To provide an additional level of security for sign-ins, you must use multi-factor authentication (MFA), which uses both a password, which should be strong, and an additional verification method such as a Smart Phone or Hardware Token.

The additional verification method is not employed until after the user’s password has been verified. With MFA, even if a strong user password is compromised, the attacker does not have your smart phone to complete the sign-in.

EBS can help you with MFA. Speak to us about how to get this moving for you.

Lockdown 3.0 = VoIP Demand

We are in the midst of “Lockdown 3.0” as many call it (amongst other things!) and we are sure that we all feel the same… when will it end?!  But there is a glimmer of hope and we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel – just to see family again or visit that favourite pub for a drink, food and socialise!

From a business point of view, we have really noticed with each lockdown that businesses who have put off implementing changes are subsequently having to rapidly implement better solutions before greater restrictions are imposed.  As a result, we are seeing huge spikes in demand for our services.  So, we wanted to ask you to consider what you would do differently if there were to be a Lockdown 4.0?

We also wanted to take the opportunity to share with you a recent case study we have completed with a customer who enhanced their telephone solution in 2019 and how at the time no one could have predicted a pandemic, let alone the impact the pandemic would have.  Fortunately for them, their business has not only managed to remain open but also benefited from a 40% increase in sales.  Luckily as a key supplier to the agricultural industry, an industry that they knew would not be able to stop during this time, they were able to cope with the increase in demand whilst all office staff worked safely from home.

We would highly recommend that you read the case study, even if you are not interested in a VoIP phone system.  The case study provides some interesting insights into their thought processes and subsequently how it has delivered benefits greater than they ever expected.

Click here for the case study

Free remote review

We can review your telephone system at no cost.  If you are not on a VoIP system then there are many benefits of moving to one and, often, your current monthly running costs can cover the cost of a hosted VoIP system subscription, including the new hardware required.  If you are already on VoIP and made the jump more than two to three years ago, it is likely you are spending too much and again it would be worth us having a look at this for you.

 

Benefits of a VoIP telephony system to your business

  • Low cost-per-call – often FREE with our bundled call minutes per company or per user
  • Work from home and remotely – take your phone anywhere with internet. Multiple choices for phones to work in any building and softphones to run from your computer with a headset
  • Versatility of features – pay for the features you need, for the people that need them. Only three people require voicemail? No problem!  Only five people require call recording? Not an issue!
  • Simple conference calls – easily merge calls together for multiple participants. We can also provide dial in conference numbers for multiple people to easily ring and be connected. Excellent for these remote working times
  • Integration to Microsoft Teams – integrate your phone to your Teams environment so only one bit of software to use
  • Reliable – VoIP is highly reliable and has excellent call quality when delivered correctly, by experts who know how data works. Gone are the days of sounding like a robot.
  • DR Ready – we are often asked “but what happens if our internet goes off?” Internet delivered by the right technology is highly reliable. Many customers we speak to would not be able to function without the internet.  We always recommend the right type of connection for the business and the ability to use your VoIP system from another building with internet is quick and easy.  Alternatively, we can remotely divert calls to an alternative number such as a mobile phone.
  • Fax over IP / Email – still use fax or have one just in case? Remove that machine which is using power and costing you money by taking up a phone line and move the service to a hosted solution. Faxes can be delivered to your email instead and can be automatically printed if required.
  • Ease of Installation, Configuration, Maintenance – VOIP systems are quick and easy to deploy minimising distribution to your business. They are not limited by hardware so can be changed as your business changes and there is limited maintenance due to minimal on-premises hardware.
  • Scalability – Scale up your call handlers, pay for their usage and then scale back down again, depending on your current business need.

 

Acronym buster

We know the world of tech is confusing – never have we seen so many acronyms!  So, we thought the below might help and we will build to this list over the coming months.

Acronym Definition Non-technical meaning
VoIP Voice over Internet Protocol Telephones (or software that acts as a phone) that operate over any internet connection, anywhere.  With full business telephone functionality (hold music, transfer calls, call recording etc.)
PoE Power over Ethernet Power is supplied over a single cable preventing the need of a socket at a phone location
FTTP Fibre to the Premises Fibre optic cable ran from your building to the local street side cabinet (green box) and then fibre to the exchange – thus providing more reliability and quicker speeds.  No traditional phone is provided – a VOIP phone must be used and is paid for separately.  Download speeds are higher than upload speeds which is a consideration for Cloud applications.
FTTC Fibre to the Cabinet Traditional copper cable is run from your building to the local street side cabinet (green box) and then fibre to the exchange – thus provides greater speeds but copper cables are less reliable and have speed limitations.  It is possible to use a traditional phone and you pay for ‘line rental’ and ‘broadband service’. Download speeds are higher than upload speeds which is a consideration for Cloud applications.
ADSL Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line An older technology but many industrial estates still have this type of connection as the only option.  Copper cable is run from the building to the street side cabinet (green box) and then copper is used to the local exchange.  Speeds are limited and might fluctuate with the number of users depending on the time of day.  A traditional phone can be used on this line and you pay for both ‘line rental’ and ‘broadband service’. Upload speeds are typically very low and often around 1mbps which might be an issue for VOIP and Cloud applications.
SoGEA Single Order Generic Ethernet Access This is a new term which provides FTTC as just an internet service at a single price.  Ideal for customers who just require broadband service and no phone as there is no line rental costs.
Leased Line Leased Line These are dedicated lines ran from the building to the exchange.  Lease lines benefit from much higher availability and are not shared by others providing a 1:1 contention ratio to the internet.  Upload and download speeds are the same e.g., 100 Mbps upload and 100 Mbps download
Point to Point (Leased Line) Point to Point (Leased Line) Point to Point leased lines are used to connect two buildings within a close proximity to each other similar to running your own cable.  Both buildings need to connect to the same local exchange and the two cables from each building are effectively joined together to create one large network spanning two locations.  A lease line is still required for internet access.  Speeds typically are 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps up and down.

 

Broadband options

Image source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-50432073