Tech Insight : Doesn’t Microsoft Back-Up Your Stuff? Er, No!

Recognising that Microsoft 365 does not comprehensively back up your data means that making sure that you have a third-party, “point-in-time” backup solution is an important consideration for your business.

Only For 30 Days

Microsoft 365 may be a very secure platform and infrastructure, but it’s worth knowing that although geo-redundancy offers protection against a site or hardware failure, Microsoft 365 only has a 30-day retention period for your data built-in, and that SharePoint Online is only backed up every 12 hours and has only a 14-day retention period.

Microsoft’s Service Agreement

Microsoft’s service agreement says, “We recommend that you regularly backup Your Content and Data that you store on the Services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services.”

Why?

There are many good reasons to use a third-party back-up solution with 365 including:

– Guarding against the risk of files being lost due to cyber-attackers attempting to gain/gaining admin access, or accidental file deletion by genuine admins.

– Protecting the businesses from data loss through ransomware attacks by having a separate back-up of important data.

– Helping with compliance e.g., GDPR and making sure that company records are kept for required time limits and helping to maintain business continuity. 

– Preventing situations where there is a need to Recover accidentally deleted emails that may have been saved somewhere in OneDrive file, or SharePoint before the retention-period ends (if versioning is not enabled), or situations where emails may be lost because they are destroyed by malware.

– Stopping important files from being permanently deleted as part of deletion of an ex-staff member’s 365 account by providing a separate location for back-ups.

– Stopping the risk of problems caused by retention policies (with Exchange Online).

– Restoring a folder within a single user can’t be done with 365, but may be possible with a third-party solution.

– Conforming to the basic tried and tested 3-2-1 back-up rule, i.e., making sure that you keep three copies of your data on two different pieces of media, with one of them being offsite (third-party).

Common Ways To Back-Up 365

Broadly speaking, businesses can use storage capacity on their own servers/on-premise servers or back-up to a cloud-based service. There are many different Office 365 backup and recovery solutions available, including Altaro, Carbonite, Druva, Commvault, Rubrik, SolarWind, Veeam, Zerto, SysCloud, and many more.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

There are many different ways that important data can be lost. Bearing in mind that Microsoft 365 only backs up your data for a relatively short time, Microsoft itself recommends that companies also back-up to third-party apps and services and, not least for security and compliance reasons, companies should make sure that they have a reliable, third party, “point-in-time” backup solution in place.

Featured Article : Dunroamin (in Europe)

Mobile operator EE has become the first to re-introduce roaming charges in Europe from January as a result of the Brexit trade deal that was signed at the end of 2020.

When?

EE says that for those who take out a pay monthly handset or SIM plan from 7 July onward, there will be a daily charge for using their mobile phone in what it defines as the “European roaming zone”, but the new charges won’t apply until January 2022.

Those customers who were already on a pay monthly plan and whose contract started before 7 July 2021 will not be affected by the charges.

Even though UK operators have been allowed to introduce the charges since January 2021, they have chosen not to do so until EE’s decision to break ranks and start introducing them in January 2022.

How Much?

The roaming charge from January 2022 will be a fixed payment of £2 per day. EE customers won’t need to take any action to opt-in.  If a customer’s allowances are used, they’ll be charged £2 for that day, and if the allowances aren’t used, EE says they won’t be charged anything.

From January 2022, those EE customers who have a plan that includes ‘Smart Benefits’ will be able to avoid the £2 daily roaming charge in the EU by using a roaming pass as a Smart Benefit. Alternatively, EE customers can pay £10 per month to have a roaming pass as an add-on which will exempt them from paying the daily roaming charge.

It has been reported that for those travelling for periods longer that the usual week or two-week holidays, 30-day packages will be available.

Limits on Charges

Any UK operators who introduce roaming charges will have to abide by UK laws which place a £45-a-month limit on the amount that customers can be charged for using their mobile data abroad before they have to opt-in for further use that could take them beyond that amount.  Also, UK law states that mobile customers must be informed when they have reached 80 percent and 100 percent of their data allowance, and operators must take “reasonable steps” to stop customers in Northern Ireland who have used a signal from the Republic of Ireland form being charged (although EE isn’t introducing roaming charges for the Republic of Ireland).

Fair Use

Customers on all networks should also be aware that there are likely to be ‘fair use’ limits on how much they can use their phones abroad and UK users could expect to be charged extra for using their phone in another country for more two months in a four-month period (for example). UK operators also have fair use limits for data, beyond which customers can be charged.  For example, O2 customers have a monthly data limit of 25GB, beyond which the charge is £3.50 per GB of data.

Where?

This is a large list of countries (47) where EE’s roaming charges will apply which includes most European holiday destinations such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, France, and Italy.  A full list of these countries can be found on the EE website here: https://ee.co.uk/help/help-new/roaming-and-international/using-your-device-abroad/what-impact-will-brexit-have-on-roaming.

EE customers, however, will not face roaming charges to use their phones in the Republic of Ireland.

Why?

The Brexit deal trade deal from December 2020 gave UK mobile operators the ability to start charging again for roaming. 

Who Else?

Vodafone, Three and O2 have said that they have no plans to introduce roaming charges, and other operators appear to be reluctant to comment or commit themselves as yet.

What Are Roaming Charges Anyway?

Mobile operators apply roaming charges as a way of covering the costs of a mobile phone being used outside the range of its home network and connecting to another available ‘visitor’ network. Mobile operators have legal roaming agreements with other roaming networks that cover aspects like authentication, authorisation, and billing.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

After the Brexit deal from December gave the go-ahead for mobile operators to re-introduce roaming charges, it seems that the pandemic travel restrictions and a period of goodwill were the only things likely to delay the inevitable re-introduction by at least one operator. Roaming charges may be good news for mobile operators, but for UK citizens, whether going on holiday or for business, it’s simply another unwelcome expense. It is good to see that, as yet, Vodafone, Three and O2 have ‘no plans’ to re-introduce to charges, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t happen in some way or won’t be covered in a different form or as part of a different kind of agreement. There are now, at least, some legal limits in place to protect customers from the worst excesses of old-style roaming charges, but EE’s plan to limit roaming charges to a relatively small daily sum that only really affects new customers has gone some way to making the news more bearable and limiting bad publicity.

Tech News : Black is the New Blue, er, Screen of Death

Those who have tried the developer’s version of Microsoft’s new Windows 11 OS have reported that what used to be the ‘blue screen of death’ is now black.

What Is The Blue Screen of Death?

The so-called blue screen of death (BSoD) is displayed on a computer running Windows when there has been a fatal system error/system crash whereby the OS has reached the stage where it can no longer operate safely.  In Windows 10, this screen has a blue background, a sad face symbol (introduced back in 2012), an error message, and a QR code (added back in 2016). The QR code enables the user to use scan with their phone to find articles and assistance.

Now Black

The new black screen of death retains the same on-screen elements i.e., the QR code and 🙁 symbol.

Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program

Those who have been the first to try windows 11 are part of Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program.  This is a ‘community’ of millions of people who have signed up through Microsoft’s website to enable them to run Windows Insider Preview Builds of the latest versions of Microsoft’s products, and provide feedback that can help any issues and bugs to be identified and addressed before the wider release.  You can register to become a Windows Insider here: https://insider.windows.com/en-us/about-windows-insider-program

Other Issues

Other issues relating to Windows 11 that have been reported by insiders include not being able to install the operating system due to missing hardware requirements (which has since been fixed using an update to settings), a streamlined version of File Explorer reverting to the old style for some users, and the Start Menu search not working.

Will It Work On Most Computers?

One other major worry that’s been highlighted is that, as things currently stand, the new Windows 11 may not be able to run on many computers because it only supports eighth generation and newer Intel Core processors, Apollo Lake, and newer types of Pentium and Celeron processors,

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Back in 2015, it was announced that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows. A lot can change in the world and in the marketplace of technology in a few years, and Microsoft has found itself having to up its game and change its plans in order to compete with Apple. Windows 11 will be released later this year (date as yet unspecified) and, no doubt, more bugs and issues will be highlighted and reported, as is expected in the testing stages with the Insider Program. The issue of whether Windows 11 can run on machines that don’t have the newer processors, however, is quite an important one that could affect many businesses, and it remains to be seen what comes back from Microsoft about this during this testing phase.

Tech News : Children Called “Alexa” Getting Bullied

It has been reported that children called ‘Alexa’ are being bullied because they share the same name as Amazon’s digital assistant and consequently, some parents are now calling for a digital name change.

Alexa

There are an estimated 4,000 people in the UK who are under the age of 25 and called “Alexa” (a female form of Alex).  Amazon reportedly chose the name Alexa for its digital assistant (launched in 2014) because it has a hard consonant with the X, which means that it is a ‘wake word’ that can be recognised with higher precision. Also, the name is reminiscent of the Library of Alexandria, which is also used by Amazon Alexa Internet.

Servant Or Slave?

The BBC, for example, recently reported the stories of different families where younger members named Alexa had experienced bullying because of their name, with one US mum alleging that the name has become synonymous with “servant or slave”, thereby making some abusers feel that they have a licence to treat people of that name in a subservient manner.

One part of the BBC’s report highlights the plight of a girl who was bullied from the age of six over her name, and even claims that adults with the name Alexa also attract ‘comments’.

Not Advertised

One of the criticisms by those families whose children have been the subject of name-based bullying is that Amazon doesn’t appear to advertise the fact that the wake word ‘Alexa’ can be changed.  In fact, customers have a choice of wake words, including Echo, Computer, and Amazon.

How To Change The Wake Word

The wake word in an Amazon Echo, for example, can be changed by opening the Alexa app, opening ‘Devices’, selecting ‘All Devices’ and selecting the device concerned, scrolling under ‘General’ and selecting ‘Wake Word’, selecting and alternative wake word from the list, and then selecting OK.

Advice for parents and carers on how to deal with bullying and cyber-bullying can be found on the NSPCC website here https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/bullying-and-cyberbullying/, on the Kids Health website here: https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/bullies.html and on the Bullying UK website here: https://www.bullying.co.uk/advice-for-parents/what-to-do-if-your-child-is-being-bullied/.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon had to call its digital assistant something and it’s sad and unfortunate that the name is being used by some people as an excuse to bully others. One thing the company could do to help is, perhaps, to make a greater effort to publicise the fact that users have options to change the wake word to something more benign and generic like ‘computer’ or something that at least reinforces the name of an Amazon product such as ‘echo’. Bullying in school or in the workplace can have damaging and long-lasting effects on the victims and can highlight individuals who need to be challenged and educated in order to understand the causes, and to help them and modify their own bullying behaviour for the good of all.

Tech Tip – Checking If Links Are Safe or Spam

If you’ve ever wanted to click on a link to a website but wanted a way to check first whether its spam or worse, here are five ways to safely check:

1. Check the status of a website URL using Google’s Transparency Report, which harnesses Google’s Safe Browsing technology.  See: https://transparencyreport.google.com/safe-browsing/search?hl=en

2. Use URLVoid to check a website’s reputation and detect potentially malicious lnks.  See: https://www.urlvoid.com/

3. Use ScanURL to check a website for malware, phishing, viruses, and poor reputation. See: https://scanurl.net/

4. Check any link that you suspect is a phishing site by using PhishTank.  See: https://www.phishtank.com/

5. Use VirusTotal to scan a web page for malicious links: https://www.virustotal.com/gui/