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The Critical Importance of Your Domain Name May 13, 2014

Posted by charitysolutions in Uncategorized.
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Over the past year we have had to help several charities who have suddenly lost access to their website and emails, meaning that they were suddenly unable to communicate with supporters, beneficiaries, suppliers and, in some cases, even each other.

The root cause of these disasters? Not some powerful computer virus or trojan, not some fire, flood or strange “act of God” ….but the loss of their domain name.

For the “total non-techies” of you, your domain name is the bit after the www in your website address and after the @ in your email address. It, and the records stored with it, are what enables the whole world to find your website or send emails right to your computer. Basically, in the modern age, without it your communications are pretty well sunk!

The exact causes of the domain name losses were varied, but most related in some way to the charity not having direct control of the domain – either because someone (no longer active within the charity) had registered the domain on their behalf or because the charity had not ensured that their own up to date contact details were recorded in the official domain registration details.

It’s important to add here that (other than in one case of spectacularly bad management by a major UK ISP) the domains weren’t actually “stolen”, they were just not renewed (or renewed correctly) – so they were released back for sale and someone else bought them.

Whatever the reason, the charities were suddenly without email and their website no longer worked. As well as the obvious effects this had on their productivity, outreach and income, new websites often appeared under the (former) charity website address – often advertising things the charity had no wish to be associated with, let alone inadvertently send their supporters to. So their reputations suffered badly as well.

Fortunately we managed to eventually get the domains back for each charity concerned. But it wasn’t generally a quick or easy process – and some retrievals took a lot of detective work far outside our normal IT remit and took weeks of investigations – during which time the charities concerned were without their normal email and website.

We were glad we could help, but sad that we had to do so.

If the domain ownership and contact details had been managed as we had advised, then the problem wouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

So a question to every charity CEO, manager, employee or supporter out there:

Are you sure who owns your domain and who is listed as its official contacts?

If you aren’t, then check ….TODAY.     And make any necessary changes before something goes wrong and YOUR charity’s entire digital world is lost overnight!

How Much Are You Really Saving These Days by Sticking with XP? May 28, 2012

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Microsoft yesterday “upped” their efforts to get desktops upgraded from the old faithful XP to Windows 7 with their publication of a company-sponsored reports claiming that annual support costs for XP are more than five times that of Windows 7.  You can read more about this on the Techworld site here: http://news.techworld.com/operating-systems/3360310/windows-7-is-5-times-cheaper-to-manage-than-11-year-old-windows-xp/?cmpid=TD1N1&no1x1&olo=daily%20newsletter

There is no doubt that many users (including me!) were put off upgrading from XP by the version that followed it – the “dreaded” Vista, which was fairly well hated by techies and “normal people” alike.  But there is no doubt that Microsoft did a huge amount to redeem their previous messes with the introduction of Windows 7 which contained many of the best features introduced by Vista but combined then into a far more practical operating system which coped far better with older machines and applications, was more user-friendly and basically just worked far better – in other words the best of XP combined with the best of Vista.

Though any major change such as the introduction of a new desktop operating system tends to be approached with caution, particularly by organisations like charities who often do not have the in-house technical resources to best support such changes, there is no doubt that it can’t be delayed forever.  Microsoft have already said that XP will not be supported after April 2014 (so no service packs or security patches) so it really is time to start at least planning when you will upgrade.

Though there is no getting away from the fact that there will be almost certainly  be some costs involved with the migration (technical time/costs and possibly new PCs and/or upgraded versions of some of the applications you use) there is at least now an upgrade path that is attractive in Windows 7.  You may find that the hardware and applications you already have will work just fine with Windows 7 without a problem (Microsoft has special free tools that allow you to check – see below for details) And if your charity qualifies for Microsoft donations via a scheme such as the Charity Technology Exchange it is now possible to get the Windows 7 desktop software at an incredibly reduced rate.

Some links you may find useful:

So if you are still running Windows XP, now is the time to start planning your migration to Windows 7 – it really can’t be delayed too much longer.  Once you get going, you will probably find that it isn’t anywhere near as scary as you might have been expecting, but if you are a UK-based charity and you need help, either with getting the upgrade done or just working out what you need to do, then please do feel free to contact us (0118 932 8338 or sales@charitysolutions.co.uk ) – if we can help we will be more than happy to do so.

 

 

A New Rant! April 30, 2012

Posted by charitysolutions in General, Uncategorized.
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It’s ages and ages since I felt the need to publicly rant on our blog about companies that give lousy support (though sadly it happens far more often than the blog testifies!) but after trying to help one charity since Saturday to get a really minor change made to a domain record to allow them to send and receive mail after a major office and ADSL move, I feel it is time.  Those of a tender disposition may wish to browse away now………

Without naming names or going into “techie details” that would probably bore most of you silly, the change required would have taken one of our techies less than 2 minutes to do.  Unfortunately the charity concerned had (many years ago, way before we started working with them) entrusted the domain management and renewal to another company.  Not only does this company charge them waaaaaayyyyy over standard market rates to process the yearly domain renewal, it charges them a stonking great extra fee every time a change is required to the domain records.  And to add insult to injury 50+ hours later the charity is still waiting for the change to be done (so still has no email) and the company is now blaming the delay on their partner company. (A  much larger and well-known one that is probably not best known either for its speed or technical competence but which they chose to partner with for reasons that I would hesitate to guess, though the best interests of their customers would perhaps not seem to be first on the list.)

Maybe we at Charity Solutions are be doing things wrong with our (apparently) naive “let’s do our utmost to provide a really good service and not rip charities off” way of doing things.  Maybe we should just follow that other company’s apparent business plan:

  1. Boast about providing 24/7 support – but don’t worry about having anyone actually available to do any support out of hours if anyone needs it.  Though we have clearly misunderstood in the past,  24/7 support apparently means that customers can send emails and leave answer-phone messages at any time of the day or night, it doesn’t mean that we need to do anything to help them until after we’ve had at least a couple of coffees on a Monday morning.
  2. Offer a domain management service whereby we keep control of customers domains and make them pay through the teeth (at a minimum of 10 times market pricing) every time they renew them
  3. Make customers pay extra every time we need to actually do any work up and above renewing the domain, however minor the work is.  Clearly we at CS are under-charging – £50 for a 2 minute job is apparently the going rate!
  4. Partner with totally c*** companies (names removed to keep the lawyers happy) and adopt an “apologise half-heartedly but not really give a flying f***” attitude when our customers suffer serious issues due to unnecessary delays in getting our “chosen” partners to actually do anything.

Given that the companies concerned have remained in business for a number of years (which means people are still apparently willing to use pay for such “service” levels) maybe we should set up a new company with a “mission plan” based on the above  –  it would give us far more money …………..not to mention all that extra free time if stop doing any of the boring “technical stuff” and just passed the actual work to someone else (who cares if they don’t do it as long as we get great commissions).

So if you would like the services of such a company, please contact us at www.we-left-our-ethics-outside-the-office-door-along-with-our-ferraris.rip.off and, between champagne lunches and expensive vacations, we will be more delighted to help!

PAT Testing February 15, 2012

Posted by charitysolutions in General, Uncategorized.
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We can’t say it was part of our long-term plans when we started, but we are now able to provide Portable Appliance Testing to both existing and new customers in the London and South East and Cornwall areas.

We have added this service after a number of our charity customers ran into problems with their current PAT Testing providers (from incomplete and incorrect testing to causing major IT issues by just hoiking plugs out of walls to test equipment without shutting it down first) and asked us if we could do it instead.

So some of our key technical staff are now also trained and qualified to do PAT Testing – whether on its own or along with other services like network healthchecks or general IT “fixing stuff” work.  To be honest, they are quiet enjoying their new work so far – electricity is a bit more predictable than Microsoft!🙂

If you think this is something we might be able to help you with, just email us or give us a ring – 0118 932 8338.

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