Connectus gains G-Cloud 12 cloud services provider status

Cloud connectivity expert Connectus is now approved as an official G-Cloud 12 cloud services provider under the UK government’s Digital Marketplace Framework, fulfilling all the criteria to provide bleeding-edge cloud services to the public sector.

The Government Cloud, also referred to as G-Cloud, is a UK government programme created to promote government-wide adoption of cloud computing.

The G-Cloud framework supports the government’s ‘Cloud First’ policy, introduced in 2013 to encourage public sector organizations to evaluate and pursue cloud-based services rather than on-premises alternatives.

After an extended application process, Connectus is now officially sanctioned to deliver cloud services across all three areas applied for – Cloud hosting, Cloud software and Cloud support – via its market-leading cyber consultancy and services.

Connectus had to demonstrate its ability to deliver products and services governed under the Crown Commercial Services Digital Marketplace Framework. Through this framework, potential public sector buyers can engage with Connectus for a wide range of products and services that enable them to mitigate risk, complexity, and costs when adopting new cloud technologies or the expertise to secure their cloud services.

Duncan Shaw, Group CTO, says: “This is a great opportunity for Connectus to establish itself in the public sector. We have demonstrated that our knowledge, strong values and processes can deliver complex solutions and help organisations embrace cloud technology as an enabler to work more effectively and efficiently – underpinned by our established CyberSecurity Framework.”

Connectus is now proudly among a small, select group of accredited suppliers, having undergone a gruelling six month application process to prove its technical mettle, and future-proof capabilities. Connectus had to demonstrate its ability to meet criteria that provide assurances to buyers in terms of delivering products and services in line with relevant standards, in particular, those aligned with cybersecurity.

“We were part of the G-Cloud initiative before, but this is an extension of our previous offering, reflecting our growth in experience, capabilities and skill sets as a company. Under GCloud10, we provided hosting, but now we have the green light to also offer cloud software and support,” explains the CTO.

The growing team of technology experts at Connectus is keen to take advantage of this new ability to engage with public sector buyers – such as schools and regional governments – through established processes, providing controlled and well-managed delivery and support mechanisms.

Connectus’ detailed application and proof of capability means it can deliver expert, cost-effective services in three key Lots: Cloud Hosting, Cloud Software and Cloud Support, enabling public sectors bodies to create flexible and secure working practices that help them meet modern-day challenges.

This prestigious new status allows the company to bring its services to a new group of clients, having already developed an unmatched reputation in enterprise and B2B solutions. Connectus can now bring its years of knowledge and experience to the public sector, creating enormous opportunities to engage with new markets and establish itself as a trusted public sector partner.

The G-Cloud comprises a series of framework agreements with suppliers, from which public sector organisations can buy services without needing to run a full tender or competition procurement process. Via an online store – the “Digital Marketplace” (previously “CloudStore”), where Connectus is now to be found – public sector bodies cna easily and efficiently search for services covered by the G-Cloud frameworks.

The new G-Cloud 12 framework is an agreement between the government and suppliers of cloud services, such as Connectus. For the buyer, procuring services through a framework is more efficient than posting and managing multiple, individual contracts.

Connectus and Guerrilla ICT bring clarity to IT solutions

Connectus is partnering with disruptive start-up Guerilla ICT to deliver ultrafast broadband, telephony, IT and cybersecurity services to SME and enterprise customers across the Midlands in a new way.

Guerilla ICT, brainchild of industry veteran Craig Hall, aims to provide a no-nonsense straightforward and cost-effective raft of IT and communication services, helping businesses to mitigate cost complexity, unfathomable contracts and risk.

Hall says he has launched his new company after 25 years of frustration with big industry players, and the way they sold their technology – locking businesses into inappropriate packages at great cost.

The fundamental Guerilla difference is that companies are advised firstly how to save money, and secondly how to make best use of appropriate technology, rather than being strong-armed  into ‘one-size fits all’ packages.

Craig Hall became aware of Connectus through their company investor DropJaw Ventures who have also invested in Connectus. After discussions with the owners, he knew Connectus shared his strong customer care philosophy and desire to push the right technology to market. “As soon as Guerilla ICT became a reality, it was inevitable that the partnership would happen,” says Craig.

Hall and his team can help companies extricate themselves from existing contracts and then offer a bespoke equipment leasing plan, allowing companies the flexibility of growing their technology backbone as the business grows. Being vendor agnostic, Guerilla’s partnership with Connectus is a no-brainer.

“Connectus shares our vision of honest, straightforward technology solutions – you might say we are bringing old fashioned values to 21st-century bleeding-edge technology,” explains Hall.

The maverick managing director of Derby-headquartered Guerilla ICT says “I am delighted to have a flexible partnership with Connectus for the main strands of our supply chain. The Connectus team will help us deliver the desired outcomes for all our clients, current and future.”

Speaking of the new partnership, Andy Marsden, Group Business Development Director, Connectus, says: “Connectus is delighted to be working with Guerilla IT to enable us to deliver a suite of managed services to SME and Enterprise customers via our well-renowned and established ‘Connect, Protect and Collaborate’ model. This is a complete white label solution to assist Guerilla in its ambitious growth plans.”

Connectus’ Connect, Protect and Collaborate model encompasses a blend of fully managed services to protect businesses, enable them to scale, and create sustainable competitive advantage.

Connectus brings a range of services covering connectivity, network and cybersecurity, voice, IT support and data storage and backup to leading organisations across the North East and Midlands.

Connectus meets cyber challenge for Urban Technology Group

The Urban Technology Group has signed a three-year hosting deal and cyber security audit services from Connectus, a leading connectivity and value-added services partner.

Chester-based Urban Technology Group (Urban) delivers bespoke CRM and ERP software solutions, consulting, planning and technology management services, and called upon the specialist services provided by Connectus to avoid the unnecessary business headaches that are often associated with providing non-core services.

Lou Crane, CEO at The Urban Technology Group, says: “With so many of us working remotely, we have all been looking at our processes, and robust cybersecurity is key to that. The pandemic has pushed us into making sure our company and data is secure. We want to ensure our data – and our client’s data – is as safe and secure as it can be. Working from remote locations can compromise sensitive data, and our Connectus audit means we are doing everything to ensure data integrity across our systems and networks.”

Connectus has also been appointed by The Urban Technology Group to provide a comprehensive three-year hosting deal. The deal means Urban can concentrate on its core expertise, without concern over hosting issues. The company needs a dual-layer of hosting – a client development area, and a live environment.

Lou says: “We made a decision not to host directly, but rather bring in a specialist with the skills or tools we simply don’t possess. We knew exactly what we needed, but didn’t want the headaches associated with hosting. We are a Windows server company, and Connectus jumped in with a viable, cost effective solution that means we don’t have to pass the costs onto our clients.Connectus also provides round-the-clock support and maintenance, which is reassuring.”

The CEO says the mindset has shifted from large companies thinking they had to work with other large companies to a model where specialists – like Urban and Connectus – are much more in favour.

Andy Marsden, Group Business Development Director, Connectus, says: “Lou and her team have realised the advantages of outsourcing certain technology elements to us – with our deep expertise, experience and hands-on support and maintenance. Since Connectus started, we’ve always had a mission to provide a suite of appropriate services to help protect businesses and enable them to scale fast enough to create and maintain a sustainable and competitive advantage. We are delighted to partner with The Urban Technology Group in its ongoing business success.”

Connectus launches new cyber stack

Connectus — a leading provider of connectivity, cybersecurity and telecoms services with offices in Doncaster and Salford —has launched its new flagship cybersecurity solution and managed services application stack, designed to help businesses remain safe in a post-Covid lockdown world.

The new service provides comprehensive protection for company networks and devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. And this collection of award-winning tools is cost-effective enough for clients to enjoy corporate-level cyber protection at SME pricing.

The new cyber stack of services includes integration with award-winning Australian company ThreatDefence. This innovative start-up has gained a reputation in the cyber security world for catching issues missed by other, big-name companies and regularly works with public companies with more than 5,000 devices on a network.

ThreatDefence collects and collates data from a diverse range of environments, including cloud storage, on-premise physical storage, as well as remote and virtual. This data can then be searched, visualised and monitored from a web dashboard.

Connectus CEO Roy Shelton said:

“As we continue to meet the diverse and growing demands of our customers, who are themselves struggling with the effects of the global pandemic, I am delighted we have secured this partnership with ThreatDefence.

“With the growing number of sophisticated cyber-attacks, the ThreatDefence solution is a wonderful addition to our Connect- Protect-Collaborate managed service portfolio. This will help enable us to keep our clients safe, whether they are working at their usual office location or, or remotely as a homeworker.”

ThreatDefence UK representative Paul Newman from Colocentric said:

“With more than 30 years global experience working on leading-edge technologies, ThreatDefence delivers a platform that has assisted some of the world’s largest organisations detect threats that would otherwise have been missed by other security systems.”

  • Contact us today to learn more about the new Connectus Protect cyber stack of services.

Connectus to manage ground-breaking UK edtech project

Connectus — a leading provider of connectivity, telecoms and cybersecurity services with offices in Doncaster and Salford — has been appointed technical partner for Eduu.school, a revolutionary new edtech project designed to reshape the UK’s entire educational system and make it more suitable for life after lockdown.

Connectus will be working in support of Chester-based GLUU, who have built a network of global educational leaders and industry experts from the combined worlds of online learning, curriculum creation, publishing, mental health and teacher personal development.

Key partners include Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust who will develop content and services from the Hodder Education Group into blended learning solutions for use both inside and outside of school. Children’s non-fiction publishing house, What on Earth Publishing, will also contribute to the project.

Eduu.school content is designed to be used in online lessons experienced while at school or at home. The work follows the Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust’s digital curriculum framework and supports self-directed learning whereby the student’s parents act as coach with agile approaches designed to cope with a range of return-to-school scenarios.

The platform is supported by a technical helpdesk team led by Connectus CTO Duncan Shaw. Connectus helps clients mitigate cost, risk and complexity via a “One Provider” approach and a proven portfolio of services: Connectus Connect, Connectus Protect and Connectus Collaborate.

GLUU Managing Director Sean Gardner said:

“We’re living in a completely different world now and the new system needs to do two things. First, it needs to create a national edtech platform to deliver one response to the challenges faced post COVID-19, rather than via the 50-plus different platforms being used by schools before now.

“The second thing is that the curriculum today is not built to support home learning with parents acting as a coach. We’re building a curriculum that’s suitable for both home and in-school learning.”

Connectus Group Chairman Paul Ruocco said:

“We are thrilled to be supporting GLUU and their pioneering approach to blended learning. Via our Connect-Protect-Collaborate model, we will be providing and maintaining a high availability hosting environment, cybersecurity and endpoint protection, enabling the platform to be delivered in a scalable, robust, secure and cost-effective manner.”

Connectus checks temperatures for UK bounce back

As the world returns to work after lockdown, businesses across the UK are going to have to build a new way to keep the economy going in order to secure continuity for the future.

And Connectus is joining the battle with the introduction of a managed service to provide real-time, non-contact measurements that can spot site visitors with elevated temperatures and help keep Covid-19 away from your workforce.

Temperature Sentinel by Connectus allows business managers to maintain a live, 24/7 overview of site visitors and identify those who may be suffering from the Covid-19 coronavirus or another illness.

Temperature Sentinel Single

A real-time, rapid-deployment, non-contact temperature measurement system for detecting site visitors with elevated temperatures. This all-in-one solution comes in a ruggedised form and would suit businesses looking to monitor a single main entrance of an office or venue.

You can see a video of some elements in action here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZQPYR73qC8

Temperature Sentinel Plus

This a real-time, non-contact temperature measurement system for detecting individuals with elevated temperature in multiple high-footfall areas. This extensible solution would suit businesses looking to monitor two or more locations in a single office or venue.

You can see a video of some elements in action here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJy2869i_K8

Temperature Sentinel prices start at £13,370 to cover a single location. Lease packages are also available.

Connectus Group Chief Technology Officer Duncan Shaw said:

“In the coming months, industry and commerce across the UK will be pressed into service to adapt and thrive through creativity and smart investments. Our new Temperature Sentinal service can not only allow businesses to keep harmful viruses from entering their premises, it can also send a clear signal to employees, stakeholders, clients and partners that positive action has been taken as part of a long-term business strategy.

“Confidence is key as the country gets back to business, especially if the ‘new normal’ means a lasting change to the fundamentals of how we all manage offices, workforces and visitors.”

  • For more information about Temperature Sentinel by Connectus, contact us today.

Connectus joins the Covid-19 cybersecurity battle

Cybercriminals are exploiting the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic to launch potentially deadly cyberattacks on a global health industry already struggling to cope with the largest global challenge it has ever been called on to deal with.

But a growing global collective of private and public sector organisations are rising to the challenge to keep the healthcare providers operational as they battle Covid-19 and cybercriminals.

And Connectus has joined the fight with the announcement it will offer healthcare and educational providers a range of substantial support packages in order to give responders the support they need and #keepemsafe in such challenging times.

Cybercriminals are using ransomware to hold hospitals and medical services digitally hostage, preventing them from accessing vital files and systems until a ransom is paid. Interpol’s Cybercrime Threat Response team has detected a significant increase in the number of attempted ransomware attacks.

“As hospitals and medical organizations around the world are working non-stop to preserve the well-being of individuals stricken with the coronavirus, they have become targets for ruthless cybercriminals who are looking to make a profit at the expense of sick patients,” said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

He explained:

“Locking hospitals out of their critical systems will not only delay the swift medical response required during these unprecedented times, it could directly lead to deaths. Interpol continues to stand by its member countries and provide any assistance necessary to ensure our vital healthcare systems remain untouched and the criminals targeting them held accountable.”

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) is already in crisis mode, says London-based international think tank Chatham House. Health professionals are focused on providing beds and ventilators in response to “one of the largest peacetime threats ever faced”.

But cybersecurity support is critical so health professionals can carry on saving lives, wrote Joyce Hakmeh, Senior Research Fellow of Chatham House’s International Security Programme and Co-Editor of the organisation’s Journal of Cyber Policy in early April.

“Yet this support is currently missing and the health services may be ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of potential cyberattacks.”

The NHS is stretched to breaking point, says Hakmeh, and expecting it to be on top of its cybersecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic is not only unrealistic, but it could also actually add to national risks.

“Now is the time where new partnerships and support models should be emerging to support the NHS and help build its resilience. Now is the time where innovative public-private partnerships on cybersecurity should be formed. Similar to the economic package from the UK chancellor and innovative thinking on ventilator production, the government should oversee a scheme calling on the large cybersecurity capacity within the private sector to step in and assist the NHS. This support can be delivered in many different ways, but it must be mobilized swiftly.”

There are opportunities in every crisis, says Hakmeh, and the Covid-19 pandemic offers an opportunity for the UK government to show agility in how it deals with cyber threats and how it cooperates with the private sector to improve national cyber resilience.

“It is an opportunity to lead a much-needed cultural change showing cybersecurity should never be an afterthought.”

Connectus CEO Roy Shelton said:

“Building on our work with healthcare and government clients – including Clinical Skills, serving over 100 NHS trusts across the UK – Connectus are ideally placed to assist the healthcare industry with proactive cybersecurity protection.

“Our innovative approach of integrating the world’s best technologies into a single robust, scalable and cost-effective managed service which can be rapidly deployed is already generating increased levels of protection for our clients. We are offering healthcare and educational providers a range of substantial support packages in order to enhance their capabilities and #keepemsafe.”

Connectus support network expands for Covid-19 cover

In these remarkable times of commercial and social disruption, business continuity is crucial if UK SMEs are going to pull together and help push the nation on to a post-lockdown future.

And Connectus is no different – we have reprioritised our support and engineering resources to ensure we can meet any increase in demand for our telephony, remote working and cybersecurity services.

If business is to bounce back, service providers, clients, partners and consumers are going to have to keep the wheels of industry turning while the world learns how to absorb the dramatic effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Connectus CEO Roy Shelton said:

“I want to assure all our customers across all our networks that we are not only continuing to provide proactive and reactive technical support and maintenance services, but we are also increasing our capacity and capabilities.

“As more clients move their workforce to home working, we are here to support them with setup, configuration and ongoing access in order to minimise disruption to business.

“We also advise customers and their staff remain extra vigilant from the increase in cybersecurity threats. We are already experiencing a significant increase in phishing scams from fraudsters claiming to be from banks, the NHS and even HMRC in an attempt to gain access to personal and financial information.

“We wanted to reiterate that point to existing and potential clients as the demand for robust, cost-effective and secure network access increases.”

Connectus Service Desk operations are not affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and clients can contact us at any time using the normal channels. We have a team of qualified engineers available to assist with incidents and service requests. Clients can call us on 0330 440 4848 or login to their dedicated client portal to create a ticket for action.

Don’t panic: Effective remote working can get us through this

This week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recommended all UK companies that can send their staff home to work should do so in order to minimise the economic effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus and help restrict transmission of the virus.

So how does a company approach such a potentially jarring change to the way they do business? Here at Connectus, we have many years of creating effective distributed networks for remote teams, so we’re offering a few points to consider; contact us today if you’d like to know more about any of the issues raised.

First of all, don’t panic! Take sensible precautions with an eye on the future – Covid-19 may be an immediate challenge, but its effects will be felt for a long time to come, so poorly-planned responses could simply create additional concerns and issues further down the line.

Take this as an opportunity to rework your entire organisation’s approach to successful and secure remote working.

You will probably have already considered the most pressing immediate issue: is home working for staff actually constructive or viable for your company or organisation? Retail companies and those that rely heavily on warehouse-, factory-, or depot-based operations may find the answer is, sadly, ‘no’.

However, for office staff who work at a desk, working from home is a perfectly viable way to keep your business operational in such challenging times.

But companies and staff alike will have to fundamentally rethink their approach to what will become normal day-to-day work. And once the Covid-19 challenge has passed, many employees will push for the option to continue working remotely.

Remote working does not, however, suit all people, so few companies can expect to transform into a fully remote operation in 2020. The fact remains, however, that the office or workspace as we know it is about to change.

Some security considerations:

  • Don’t just open up your network for remote access – never allow direct remote access to files, devices or systems from the internet for anyone.
  • Always place some kind of security boundary around the office network and only allow trusted, secure connections in from the outside. This could be via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or a zero-trust solution, which assumes every connection is through some hostile network and secures all communication.
  • If you have a VPN on your firewall, use this as it will be more robust than a solution which operates on a computer inside the network. If you are unsure, contact your IT service provider (or contact us here at Connectus to learn more).
  • If you don’t have a VPN, can you use remote access software like LogMeIn, Take Control or Team Viewer, which will allow staff to access their desktop computers on the company network without having to open a hole in the firewall? If so, do.
  • Make sure your staff understand the risks and responsibility of working away from the office; now is the time for your HR department to draw up the communications protocols and paperwork you’ll rely on for years to come.
  • Ensure you have appropriate staff contracts in place to cover data protection and legal responsibilities.
  • Your boundary with the internet will change and no longer be just your office or workplace – it will include every remote worker who can access your systems.

If you use Office365 or Google Docs:

  • Insist staff use web applications on their own devices and do no install software without clear guidance from your IT department. This will allow the business to retain control of its data.
  • Criminals are constantly on the lookout for open networks and systems – don’t make it easy for them.
  • The current situation shouldn’t lead to a technology free-for-all as this will expose your business to bad actors – be responsible and seek advice if in doubt.

If staff are taking work devices away from your premises, ensure that:

  • You have appropriate insurance cover.
  • All your protection systems remain effective when used away from your premises and regular network.
  • Your IT support can still access the devices.
  • Your staff accept responsibility for the safe usage and storage of the equipment.

Finally, also consider that if remote work becomes a long-term requirement, as an employer you will have responsibility for ensuring the adequate working conditions of staff who work from home, including suitable desks, seats and display equipment.

This will also include consideration of remote management of staff devices, improved IT management and audits to know where your organisation’s data is for compliance with the Data Protection Act.

Effective remote working during (and after) Covid-19

We’ve already discussed how businesses can adapt to remote working now that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recommended UK companies send their staff home during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

But what about employees, how should they approach this new way of working? Here we offer a few points to consider if you’ve been asked to work remotely.

If you use your own devices at home:

  • Make sure your anti-virus is turned on and is up-to-date.
  • Familiarise yourself with the rules your employer has introduced to allow you to work remotely. This may include the ability for the management to remotely delete files on your device, which can include personal content.
  • If working away from your work location, be careful which wi-fi network is being used – is it secure and trustworthy?
  • Be aware of other people around you, who may be looking over your shoulder.
  • Don’t access sensitive company information from a public place.
  • Always close your personal browser sessions before connecting new ones for work tasks.
  • Don’t copy company information onto personal devices unless you have already agreed this with your employer. Without the right approvals and permissions, this may be classed as data theft.

If you are using company devices:

  • Try to keep your children away from your work computers and devices.
  • Don’t leave company devices unlocked when you are away from them.
  • Treat them as a precious resource – they are vital for your company’s continued business viability and your own salary or income, of course.

Connectus renews official partnership deal with Sale Sharks

Connectus have agreed terms on a new two-year deal with Sale Sharks following the success of their initial 12-month partnership.

Connectus is the connectivity provider at Sale’s Carrington training ground and AJ Bell Stadium home, where Connectus secured a five-year deal in 2019 to provide a high-speed fibre optical network, as well as telephony, corporate Wi-Fi and managed cybersecurity services to support the stadium management team.

As part of the renewal, which ties the two brands together until 2022, Connectus has also renewed its sponsorship of Sale Sharks’ captain Jono Ross. Twenty-nine-year-old Jono has been one of the Premiership Rugby side’s stand-out players this season and has also worked with Connectus in the local community, recently dropping in on a training session with Chester RUFC.

Mark Cueto, Commercial Director at Sale Sharks, said:

“Connectus has been a great partner over the past year and we’re really pleased they’ve decided to extend that for another two years.

“The team at Connectus have been great to work with over the past 12 months and we have worked closely with them to bring the partnership to life in different ways.

“We’re playing really well on the pitch at the moment, but the commercial partners we have behind us are integral to that success, so it’s great to have another fast-growing local company commit to a long-term partnership with us.”

Alongside its five-year contract at the AJ Bell Stadium, Connectus also committed to the Manchester area by opening an office at the stadium, where eight staff are based.

Connectus CEO Roy Shelton said:

“The past 12 months as a club sponsor have been great and it is brilliant to see the team doing so well on and off the pitch. From a business perspective, it’s fantastic for us to be able to connect through Sale’s Business Club with like-minded companies from across the region who share our passion for sport.

“We ultimately want to get our brand known and spend more time with all of our valued customers who are regular guests at the games. Sale Sharks is a great club for us to be connected to in that sense – it has wide-reaching national appeal.

“Collaboration is central to everything we do at Connectus and that’s exactly what we get from our partnership with Sale. We are very excited for the next two years and can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.”