Featured Article – Technology: Post-Brexit

Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, we take a brief look at what is known about how technology and the technology sector may be affected in a few key areas.

Predictions and Warnings

Since the June referendum vote of 2016 led to Brexit, there have been many predictions about what this would actually mean for technology. The pandemic, and the need for businesses to adapt quickly to survive put many thoughts of Brexit on the back burner.  With many businesses now getting used to ways of working around restrictions (home working), mass vaccination on the horizon, and leaving the EU less than two months away, we pick up on a few Brexit predictions and warnings and look at some of the tech areas that businesses are beginning to think seriously about again as the deadline looms.

Data

For example, back in January, the director of strategic policy at the Information Commissioner’s Office, Jonathan Bamford, urged businesses to prepare for a no-deal Brexit in terms of planning to stop interruption in data flows from Europe due to the fact that three-quarters of the UK’s cross border data flows are with EU countries. This was a reference to the fact that the UK will become a ‘third country’ because it falls outside of the GDPR zone (EU member states plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland) and GDPR restricts transfers of personal data to third countries. The UK, therefore, still needs ‘adequacy agreement’ from the EU, showing that it considers the UK as a ‘third country’ to still provide a level of protection which is equivalent to that of the EU.  This would allow data to flow into and out of the EU without the need for other safeguards. If there is a no-deal Brexit and is there is no adequacy decision in place for some time, businesses and institutions may find themselves having to use alternative legal mechanisms that could be bureaucratic, costly, and could cause delays. 

Organisations that receive data from Europe and that use cloud services based within the EU may need to think about what risks and disruption they could face if no adequacy agreement is in place, and what other mechanisms and agreements they may need to seek.  This could include:

– Finding out where company data is stored and who has access to it.

– Perhaps renegotiating data services supplier contracts.

– Global organisations operating in multiple jurisdictions may need to look at how data is transferred within their organisation and whether corporate rules need to be changed.

– Organisations may need to look at where their riskiest and/or more important data transfers are, and plan to get Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) implemented i.e. contractual forms approved by the EU Commission as offering adequate protection for the personal data of individuals.

– Some of the other best measures that UK small businesses that send and receive data to and from Europe can currently take are to make sure that they really do comply with GDPR, and to review privacy information and documentation to identify any minor changes that need to be made at the end of the transit.  More information can be found form the ICO website here: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-at-the-end-of-the-transition-period/data-protection-at-the-end-of-the-transition-period/

People and Skills

The UK has suffered from a tech skills shortage for many years and the Brexit result led to fears that skilled tech workers, many of whom may have come from overseas, may decide to leave, and that employers would find it difficult to attract new skills compared to other countries e.g. the U.S.  Back in January, for example, a TopCV report found that 16 per cent of UK tech employees said they were planning on leaving the UK and their current job to advance their career due to Brexit and that the marketing, and it looked as though the media and design sectors could be most affected by employees leaving i.e. a quarter of professionals in those sectors said they were planning to head abroad.

The pandemic has severely curtailed all global movements and back in the summer, the Japan Times speculated that the confidence gained by UK companies through learning that they could still work effectively having a remote workforce may influence how they’ll approach recruitment after Brexit e.g. executives having roles local to headquarters, but other roles being based elsewhere.

Other commentators point to the fact that the UK already has five of the top 20 European cities for technology, there were large numbers of tech start-ups in January, and Facebook, Apple and Google had set up HQs in London, giving a promising sign of the UK’s tech future beyond Brexit.

Re-skilling and up-skilling from the existing workforce, and a promising number of home-grown graduates moving into the burgeoning AI sector in the UK have also been suggested as positives beyond Brexit, but how immigration laws in the UK post-Brexit affect recruitment from overseas is still a concern.  The fact is that after 31 January, the UK’s immigration system will end the free movement for European citizens and will also bring the rules for EU workers in line with those governing non-EU citizens.  This will mean that EU workers will face job, salary, and language requirements and that those companies attempting to hire new tech workers from outside the UK will need to try and understand some of the key requirements in order to help ensure the success of their recruiting processes.

Supply Chains

The pandemic has brought the importance of supply chains into sharp focus as global restrictions caused widescale disruption.  Predictions about Brexit, prior to the pandemic suggested that UK tech companies may have rushed into trade completions with solution suppliers during the transition period thereby increasing the need for checks on supply chains to stop mistakes from being made. At this late stage in the Brexit process, after so much disruption to supply chains, some supply chain businesses closing and companies having to quickly find new supply chain solutions, supply chain auditing is an important issue for business.  It is likely that UK businesses will face more stringent and thorough supply chain auditing processes after Brexit and will need to be prepared for this challenge.

One example of how technology feeds into trade and supply chains is in haulage and logistics.  Unfortunately, in September, it was revealed that critical IT systems needed to avoid border disruption post-Brexit were behind schedule, raising the threat of border chaos for hauliers. These ten IT systems included the web-based Smart Freight Service for managing customs declarations for the movement of food and medicines.  Concern remains that too few systems are operational and that there may not enough time to train users on the systems.

Reviewing, auditing, and planning as regards your business supply chain with a view to how Brexit at the end of January will affect it is an important consideration.  A supply chain checklist can be found here: https://readyforbrexit.co.uk/supply-chain/

Other Areas

There are, of course, numerous other important technology areas on the Brexit and post-pandemic horizon e.g. a changed business environment and changed industries, new economic constraints due to economic and market damage, the influence on possible trade deals resulting from administration change in the US, re-structured workplaces and working methods, continuing physical travel limitations and advances in the use of the cloud and online platforms for business. Although beyond the scope of this article, how technology’s role will develop in these and other areas is important and something to consider going forward.

Looking Ahead

Much business planning this year has been devoted to survival, dealing with rapid change and uncertainty, and adapting to ensure effective business continuity. Brexit, however, is less than 2 months away and with technology playing a greater role than ever in our lives, how it will be affected by and the part it will play in shaping post-Brexit business will soon become much clearer.  One thing that the pandemic has done is to add perspective to the idea of Brexit and with the many serious challenges that businesses have faced over the last year, this is likely to be another significant challenge that must be met and managed. 

UK COVID Vaccine Maker Targeted By Suspected North Korean Hack

It has been reported that UK drug company AstraZeneca has been targeted by suspected North Korean hackers thought to be looking for COVID vaccine secrets.

Used WhatsApp and LinkedIn

Over the last few weeks, attacks have reportedly been launched on AstraZeneca’s systems by hackers posing as recruiters.  The bogus recruiters used LinkedIn and WhatsApp to target AstraZeneca staff with fake job offers and hid malicious code/malware in the job description documents that were sent to those staff members. Opening the documents would have launched malware that would enable an attack on the drug company’s systems. 

COVID-19 Vaccine

Since the first attempts to develop a vaccine, governments and drug companies have warned about and prepared for state-sponsored attacks from many different countries.

AstraZeneca is currently one of the top three COVID-19 vaccine developers after working with Oxford University to develop a vaccine with an overall efficacy of 70 per cent, a lower one of 62 per cent, and a high of 90 per cent (for a half dose followed by a full dose).   In the US, the FDA has said that any COVID-19 vaccine must be at least 50 per cent effective to be useful in fighting the pandemic.

North Korean?

The attacks on AstraZeneca have been identified as likely to have been the work of North Korea-based hackers because the tools and techniques closely resemble those been used as part of an ongoing hacking campaign that first targeted defence and media company systems.

It is likely, therefore, that the shift in focus followed recent announcements of the success of the Oxford vaccine development.

China

Back in July, it was reported that hackers linked to the Chinese government had targeted vaccine research developer Moderna Inc in the U.S.

Microsoft Says “Cyberattacks Targeting Health Care Must Stop”

Microsoft recently posted on its blog to say that cyberattacks targeting health care must stop and identified Russian hackers known as “Strontium” and two hacking groups from North Korea known as “Zinc and Cerium” as being recent culprits.  Microsoft said that Strontium has been using password spray and brute force login attempts to steal login credentials, Zinc has been using spear-phishing lures for credential theft, and “sending messages with fabricated job descriptions pretending to be recruiters”.  Microsoft also reported that Cerium had been using “spear-phishing email lures using COVID-19 themes while masquerading as World Health Organisation”.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

State-sponsored attacks and attempted interference in the processes of other countries are now widespread, expected, and is an area of a kind of ongoing ‘warfare’ that all countries must deal with. COVID-19 has severely damaged economies and laid waste to many businesses.  Getting effective vaccines approved and into the population of many countries is a vital step in enabling businesses to have a chance of finding more stability and making a recovery and, therefore, attacks on vaccine-makers are clearly a real cause for concern.  This is one of the reasons why Microsoft’s President Brad Smith, has recently called for more to be done by world leaders to take action to uphold international law that protects health care facilities and to enforce the law in attacks by government agencies and criminal groups that governments facilitate/enable to operate.

Big AWS Outage Affects Large Proportion of the Internet and IoT

A big Amazon Web Services (AWS) outage on November 25 affected a large number of Internet services and gadgets at a time when making online sales and using cloud-based remote working platforms are vital for struggling businesses.

AWS

AWS, which is responsible for around 15 per cent of Amazon’s massive overall revenue, is made up of 175+ products and services such as computing, storage, networking, database, analytics, app services, mobile, developer tools, and tools for the Internet of Things (IoT). AWS revenue in 2019 was $35.03 billion.

Critical

The popularity and size of AWS as the biggest of the cloud companies (IaaS and PaaS) means that it is a critical backbone of a huge number of websites and apps worldwide, which is what makes a big outage such a potentially damaging event with economic knock-on effects that have been felt around the world.

What Happened?

On Wednesday, November 25, until 4.18 am on Thursday morning an AWS outage affected 23 AWS geographic regions with representatives from many apps, services, and websites taking to social media to describe how they had been impacted.  Those highlighting the effects included Roku, Adobe Spark, The Washington Post (owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos), and iRobot and Flickr.

IoT Casualties

The outage was reported to have caused IoT gadgets such as robot vacuums and smart doorbells to suddenly stop working.  For example, the Home App responsible for operating iRobot’s Roomba robot vacuum stopped working as did Amazon’s own Ring smart doorbells.

The Cause

Ironically, the outage is believed to have been caused by Amazon introducing a small addition of capacity that was intended to improve the service.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although it didn’t last for long, the fact that so many businesses now rely upon AWS, (which has more than 45 per cent of the global cloud computing market), meant that the effects were widespread and are likely to have been disruptive, costly and potentially dangerous in some cases.  This incident could, therefore, be viewed as an example of why having only a few large companies managing cloud computing globally is not an ideal situation.  This is an issue that has been the subject of discussion and suggestions in recent times, such as the study from Roland Berger and the Internet Economy Foundation (IE.F) which highlighted the possible benefits of multi-cloud solutions for companies and public administrations and state rule-setting to help ensure fair competition in cloud computing.

Companies and organisations around the world have needed to rely heavily on cloud-based services e.g. communications and collaborative working platforms due to the pandemic which makes this outage all the more worrying.

New Competition Rules for Facebook and Google in the UK

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said that Facebook and Google will face new rules next year to prevent abuse of their market dominance.

The Issues

For the CMA, the issues that were highlighted back in July and are now in the forefront again focus on the facts that:

– A massive 80 per cent of the UK’s expenditure on digital advertising, which is the equivalent of £500 per household, goes to Facebook and Google.

– Google a has 90+ per cent share of the UK’s £7.3 billion search advertising market and Facebook has a greater than 50 per cent share of the £5.5 billion display advertising market.

– Google has doubled its revenue per search since 2011, and Facebook’s average revenue per user has risen from under £5 in 2011 to over £50 last year.

– The massive user bases of both are sources of market power e.g. in the training of Google’s algorithms compared to other search engines and in enabling Facebook to enjoy ‘must-have’ status for communications.

– Both have un-matchable access to user data and use their default settings to gain more user data.

– Unlike many rivals, both companies have been able to acquire positions in other markets.

– The media industry has lost a large proportion of its advertising revenues to Facebook and Google.

Meaning?

From the CMA’s perspective, these facts represent serious potential barriers to new competition and appear to show that Facebook and Google now have unassailable market positions that make it very difficult for other companies to compete on equal terms.

New Rules in 2021

The new rules in 2021 will take the form of a statutory code of conduct, enforceable by a new Digital Markets Unit (to be set up in April 2021) working with Ofcom and the ICO. The government says that the code will give consumers more choice and control over how their data is used, give businesses a chance to better promote their products online, and support the sustainability of the news publishing industry to rebalance the relationship between publishers and online platforms.

Expectations and Requirements

The new code will set-out expectations for the behaviour of Google and Facebook in terms of their interaction with competitors and users and will require platforms funded by digital advertising to be more transparent about their services and how consumer data is used.  These platforms will also be required to give consumers a choice over whether to receive personalised advertising and not to place restrictions on customers that make it hard for them to use rival platforms.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The figures appear to show a very clear market dominance by Facebook and Google.  New rules such as these would, therefore, be good news for rival platforms, media companies and other publishers.  Such a ‘Unit’ with statutory power working to create more of a level playing field for them could help to lower the current competitive barriers.  For advertisers, new rules could be the beginning of having a greater choice.  Although Google and Facebook have a weight of experience, data and services that are used by businesses to advertise effectively and, therefore, provide a valuable service to businesses, there are many who share the view that the dominance of just a few big tech companies brings less innovation, higher advertising prices, less choice (and control for consumers), and can curtail the growth of the sector, ultimately impacting upon the businesses that use their services.  There is, however, some scepticism about how effective the government will be in trying to enforce rules upon powerful and influential tech companies that have resisted and avoided many attempts in the past to control them.

Tech Tip – Organising Tabs With A ‘Bounce’

In Windows 10, if you would like a fast and easy way to stay organised by instantly getting a birds-eye view of each tab that you have open without interrupting the flow of your work this tip is for you.

– Click on the tab part of the current window that you are working on.

– Drag the tab and ‘bounce’ it against the side of the screen.

– All the other windows you have open will appear on the opposite side of the screen.

– Select which window you would like to fill the open space.

HMRC Self Assessment Scam Warning

HMRC has issued a warning to those completing Self Assessment tax returns for 31 January not to be caught out by SMS messages and email scams purporting to be from HMRC.

Bogus

An upturn in scams using HMRC’s name has meant that in the last 12 months, HMRC has responded to more than 846,000 referrals of suspicious HMRC contacts from the public, and reported over 15,500 malicious web pages to internet service providers to be taken down. HMRC also reports that around 500,000 of the referrals from the public offered bogus tax rebates.

Personal Information and Bank Details Sought

Bogus HMRC scams, like all other scams, are designed as an easy way to get money, personal information, and bank details.  With the current bogus HMRC scams, the promise of a refund is the carrot being used to tempt victims to part with personal details and the threat/stick of a fictitious tax bill that needs to be paid is being used to extract fast money.

HMRC warns that criminals are also using the personal information gathered in the scam to access bank details or to sell on to other criminals, thereby increasing the risk of being targeted in more scams and attacks.

What Do The Scams Look Like?

Examples of recent HMRC scam texts and emails show that customers are informed that they have a pending tax refund/rebate or must review a document relating to an application for a rebate.  In both cases, customers are invited to click on a link.  This link directs the customer to a phishing website made to look like the UK government website.  Examples of these and also of recent COVID-related scams are shown on the real UK government website here.

Never, Never

HMRC is keen to point out that it NEVER:

– Sends notifications by email about tax rebates or refunds.

– Asks for personal or financial information in text messages.

– Uses ‘WhatsApp’ to contact customers about a tax refund. This is in response to a scam using WhatsApp recently.

– Uses social media to offer a tax rebate or to request personal or financial information. This is in response to a scam using Twitter recently.

Other HMRC-Focused Scams

HMRC has also highlighted another popular scam whereby a recorded call tells the recipient that HMRC is filing a lawsuit against them and that they need to press a number on the keypad to speak to a caseworker to make a payment.

What To Do

HMRC advises that recipients of these texts, emails, and calls should not reply, not click on any links, and not give any personal or financial details.  Instead, recipients should send any phishing text messages to 60599 (network charges apply), and report full details of the scam emails, texts, WhatsApp and social media messages by email to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk. All scam messages should also be deleted from the recipient’s phone or email account as soon as possible.

Those who have fallen victim to this or other scams where there has been a financial loss should contact Action Fraud.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Scammers are always ready to exploit fears and desires and this scam plays on both.  Essentially though, this is a phishing scam and phishing emails tend to have elements that give them away if the recipient can resist an immediate emotional response. In the case of this scam, and aside from the knowledge that HMRC does not communicate with customers in this way, the fact that it is unexpected, asks for money/personal information/bank details and is threatening should set alarm bells ringing. Other ways that phishing emails can be spotted include generic greetings (scammers are less likely to personalise), grammar/spelling mistakes, heavy emotional appeals that urge you to act immediately, and anomalies in the email address that a spam email has come from, or in the domain of the link to click on.  Businesses should ensure that staff are made aware of the risk of phishing emails, how to spot them and what to do/what not to do (not clicking on links in emails).  This is particularly important at a time when many staff are working from home and businesses should ensure that staff are kept firmly in the loop about security policy, security best practice, and current threats.

Apple to Pay £85 Million For ‘Batterygate’ Scandal

Apple is to pay $113m (£85m) to put an end to the ‘Batterygate’ scandal, where the company was accused of deliberately slowing down iPhone batteries to prompt users into buying a new iPhone.

What Happened?

Back in 2017, some iPhone users were sharing concerns online that their iPhone’s performance had slowed with age but had sped up after a battery replacement. This led to a customer sharing comparative performance tests of different models of the iPhone 6S on Reddit, which appeared to support the customer suspicions.

Technology website Geeknebench also shared the results of its own tests of several iPhones running different versions of the iOS operating system where some showed slower performance than others.

After customers concerns mounted and received more press, Apple publicly admitted that it had made changes one year earlier in the iOS 10.2.1 software update that is likely to have been responsible for the slowdown that customers may have experienced in iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone SE.  The slowing affected millions of people with thirty-three U.S states claiming that Apple had caused the battery-slowing to encourage battery replacement and new phone purchases.

Apple issued an apology to customers in January 2018 but said that motivation for slowing the batteries was a desire to prolong the life of customer devices by managing their ageing lithium-ion batteries and preventing the inconvenience of a sudden and unexpected shutdown.

Settlement

This latest $113m (£85m) settlement is on top of the $500m that Apple agreed in March to pay to affected iPhone owners as a result of a class-action lawsuit. Although Apple has not admitted to deliberate wrongdoing it has agreed to be more transparent over the next 3 years about iPhone power management.

Other Woes

Apple is also being sued by Epic Games in Australia after Epic’s popular and lucrative ‘Fortnite’ game was removed from the Apple App Store in August after it bypassed Apple’s (and Google’s) in-app payment method, thereby depriving the tech giant(s) of the revenue.  Epic has long complained about having to pay between 15 and 30 per cent of transactions made through apps on iOS, and Android.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The whole debacle over appearing to keep quiet about something that essentially appeared to take away performance that customers had paid for and apparently prompt them to spend more money with Apple to fix it, and the obvious financial gain by Apple appears to have been a trust-damaging blot on Apple’s copybook.  It is no surprise then, that Apple is reaching financial settlements and, no doubt, the trillion-dollar company will be hoping to move on quickly.  It should not be forgotten, however, that whatever the reason for the phone-slowing update, it appears to have caused considerable disruption to the service that many customers had paid for, many of whom are likely to have needed their phones for important business matters.  It was a shock to many customers, who chose Apple for many positive reasons and trusted the brand, that anything like this could have happened and this matter is an example of how managing customer relationships in an age where information is shared quickly and widely by customers via the Internet involves making smart decisions about transparency and being seen to be up-front with loyal customers.

Featured Article – The Difference Between Cloud Backup and Cloud Storage

This article looks at the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage and how each contributes to daily business life; business continuity and disaster recovery.

The Need For Storage

Businesses not only have limited hard drive space, plus they are having to deal with an increasing amount of data (primary and secondary), comply with stricter data regulations (GDPR) and are facing more security threats i.e. more criminals working in more sophisticated ways to steal company data.  In addition to these challenges, as highlighted by 2020’s pandemic, more businesses have employees in different locations (working from home) but who still need work apps and data and information to be stored, synchronised, made secure and yet be accessible for work use (and for collaboration). 

With this in mind, some of the reasons why cloud storage is now not only popular but vital for businesses include:

– It avoids the risk of data being lost to hardware/server failure/damage, outages and/or file corruption, the effects of environmental/natural disasters e.g. fire and flood, or damage to/theft of storage media e.g. USB drives or external hard drives.

– Cost efficiency. Cloud storage is relatively cost-efficient and the expense and responsibility of upgrading the storage hardware, data-centres and more rests with the cloud provider.  Also, the customer saves in terms of expertise required in-house and resources (time and staff) that would have been needed to maintain its own cloud storage.

– Lower energy consumption. The energy savings of using the cloud add to the efficiencies mentioned above and can help bring ‘green’ benefits.

– Scalability and flexibility. It is relatively easy and fast to up-scale (or down-scale) in cloud storage capacity.

– Usability and accessibility. Cloud services typically come with an easy-to-use user interface and drag and drop, and help/support is available. With cloud storage, data can be accessed from any device and any part of the world. 

– Increased capabilities. Cloud platforms and the apps and flexible storage that they support can boost a company’s capabilities thereby contributing to its competitiveness.

– Synchronisation. Cloud storage data can be synchronised with any device.

– Centralisation and better control.  Having a centralised, synchronised, up to date copy that everyone can work on enables better data management and helps with day to day efficiency.

– Automation and convenience. Cloud storage only requires clicks from the customer rather than having to set up and swap around hardware solutions (removable hard drives or USBs).

– Supports multiple users. The same cloud environment can have more than one usage and it allows multiple users to work collaboratively on a common file.

– Security. Cloud storage provides compliant (GDPR), safe and secure storage for company data.

The Need For Backup

Things can (and often do) go wrong with company systems, data, platforms, and hardware. Theft, loss, natural disasters, cyber-attacks, data breaches, important 3rd supplier failure or the loss of key employees, and less serious digital events that cause business disruption mean that companies need to ensure, for the purposes of business continuity and disaster recovery, that recent backup (copy) of data is available. Backups are essential files that enable a full restore, and as such are an important element of ongoing good practice. The cloud also offers a convenient backup location for the apps that the business uses as these are also vital parts of the day-to-day running of a business. Although the Cloud is not the only way to back up data i.e. store a copy of data, it is now the preferred method for many of reasons mentioned in the previous section (about cloud storage).

The Difference

The basic difference between cloud backup and cloud storage is, therefore, that cloud backup is a service where data and apps on a business’s servers are backed up on a remote server so that a recent copy can be reinstated in the event of problems such as an outage, system failure, a debilitating cyberattack or natural disaster i.e. it provides a way for files to be restored in the event of data loss. Cloud backup is therefore strongly linked to business continuity and disaster recovery (and the plans for both).

Cloud storage is really a way to supplement and give greater flexibility to the business’s hard drive space and make it easier to access and edit files from different devices, from any location.

Cloud Types

The different types of cloud storage offer different benefits and businesses can choose which type or which combination suits their needs. For example:

– The Private Cloud (internal/enterprise cloud), as the name suggests, is inside the organisation, the resources are not shared with other organisations and are protected from the outside by a firewall.

– The Public Cloud is available to all, mainly paid-for, through third-party services from providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and more, and the resources are shared with multiple other public cloud users. Public cloud services are now extremely popular with businesses. Research by the Synergy Research Group (2019) shows that cloud-associated markets, such as the public cloud, are growing at rates ranging from 10% to over 40% and the annual spending on the cloud may double in four years.  Big growth cloud infrastructure segments are infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) with a massive 44% growth rate. 

– The Hybrid Cloud is, therefore, a mixture of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services, with cross-over between the two.

Remote Working

The remote working resulting from the pandemic restrictions has now only emphasised the value of the cloud for storage, backup, communication and collaborative working but this has also translated into a big boost in spending on the public cloud and this is forecast to grow by 6.3 per cent in 2020 to $257.9bn, up from $242.7bn last year (Gartner).

Although software as a service (SaaS) is expected remain the largest market segment, the desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) segment, although relatively small, is forecast to experience a boost in spending (from $616m worldwide in 2019) due to the fact that it offers an inexpensive way for organisations with large numbers of remote workers to enable staff to securely access enterprise applications from multiple devices and locations.  This has proven to be particularly valuable during the lockdown and beyond. 

In Summary

Cloud storage, therefore, provides many benefits over more traditional, less secure or scalable alternatives and use of the cloud also makes it easier for businesses to ensure that valuable work and data assets are backed-up effectively and regularly just in case they are needed. One lesson that this year has taught businesses is that the unexpected can happen and this emphasises not just the value of the cloud to business operations, but also the value of the cloud to business continuity, disaster recovery planning and how cloud backups feed into these.

Carbon Pollution From Your Emails

A Financial Times report based on work by Tim Berners-Lee has highlighted how sending fewer emails could help tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

Emails and Carbon Production

The idea from Tim Berners-Lee, referenced also by Ovo Energy, is that although emails appear to be more environmentally friendly than using paper, a lot of energy is expended (and carbon produced) in order to allow emails to be used.  For example, for emails to be written and sent energy must be used by servers, home wi-fi, and a laptop.  Also, the carbon emitted to construct data-centre buildings could also be taken into when assessing the environmental impact of email as this represents significant greenhouse gas (carbon) production.

How Much?

Although each individual email is likely to be responsible for producing an incredibly small amount of carbon as a proportion of the 435.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses produced by the UK last year, there is likely to be a cumulative impact. This impact is likely to be made greater by the sending of “unnecessary” emails.

For example, Ovo Energy commissioned (Censuswide) research shows that the 64 million “unnecessary” emails sent every day could be responsible for contributing 23,475 tonnes of carbon a year to the UK’s carbon footprint. Unnecessary emails are categorised as those sent to friends within talking distance, or those containing replies such as ‘thank you’, ‘thanks’, ‘received’, and similar.

Polluting Anyway?

There is, of course, and argument that whether sending emails or not, having laptops, computers, Wi-Fi routers (and more) switched on all the time is contributing anyway to the production of carbon and that separating out the individual contribution of emails is difficult. It could also be argued that game and video streaming and cloud storage have more of a negative impact than sending emails.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many bigger businesses and big tech businesses try, where possible, to reduce any obvious environmental impact but also rely upon carbon offsetting and the funding of environmental projects.  Google, for example, says that, due to carbon offsetting, it became carbon neutral in 2007, has now compensated for all of the carbon it has ever created and plans to run all of its data centres on carbon-free energy by 2030. Organisations such as Friends of the Earth which points out that “in most cases, it seems clear that carbon offsetting doesn’t work in practice” and Greenpeace which says that “the way out of the climate emergency is just not that simple” and that “Offsetting projects simply don’t deliver what we need” are clearly more sceptical about offsetting.

Reducing the numbers of “unnecessary” emails sent sounds like a good, time-saving and hopefully, energy-saving idea anyway, but businesses clearly need to look at the bigger picture and concentrate more on higher-impact elements too.

Tech Tip – Windows 10 Emoji/Kaomoji Keyboard

If you would like a fast and easy way to include emojis in your writing or get access to a free resource of extra graphics when using Windows 10, you may not know that Windows 10 now has an integrated emoji and Kaomoji keyboard. Here’s how to find it:

To load the emoji/kaomoji keyboard:

– Press the Windows key + ;

– Click on the icons at the bottom of the emoji window to reveal lots of colourful emojis in each category.

– These emojis can also be used as graphics in documents by highlighting them and increasing the font size.