Tag: UK

Small business confidence low

1-pike-schermer-quits-30sweb1Small businesses confidence has fallen to its lowest level in three years.

According to the small business index compiled by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which measures firms’ prospects for the next three months gave a reading of 8.6 for the first quarter, down from 21.7 in the fourth quarter and its lowest level since the first quarter of 2013.

Small firms also saw the first decline in job creation nationwide since the second quarter of 2013, .

The FSB said the fall in confidence was partly due to fears over the strength of the UK and global economy while Government policies such as the national living wage and pensions auto-enrolment had also contributed.

It pointed out that the last time confidence was lower at the start of 2013 was “a time when there were still huge doubts over the strength of the UK economy and many were discussing the prospect of a ‘triple dip’ recession”.

FSB vice-chairman Sandra Dexter said: “Small business confidence has clearly faltered, which is why the welcome small business focus in the Budget is so important.

“We need a renewed push for growth and productivity – with policy makers delivering a sustained package of support for ambitious small firms.”

HPE lets 1000 Enterprise Services staff “go”

INDUSTRY HP 1HPE is planning to tell 1,000 Enterprise Services staff to clean out their desks and pick up their P45s in the UK.

Most of the cuts are in the Infrastructure Technology Outsourcing (ITO) department where 780 people are at risk.

Staff in the UK were sent an “internal use only” memo on Friday afternoon revealing that hundreds of them could be out of work by the end of April. Of course if you send an email like that out someone is certain to leak it.

This is the second jobs warning at HPE. In January. HP told 166 ITO employees in England that they would be fired. Those at-risk workers are based in HP Enterprise’s Lytham site in Lancashire, and they provide infrastructure services for public-sector clients, including the UK government’s Department for Work & Pensions.

Today’s email to ITO staff is headlined “management update” and was written by Maurice Mattholie, ITO VP in UK and Ireland. It reads:

“I am writing to inform you of the Company’s proposal to implement a Workforce Management (WFM) programme in Q2 FY16. As announced by Meg, Hewlett Packard Enterprise needs to create a more efficient and accountable organisation to ensure a healthy long term sustainable business, with a market competitive cost structure, that will help the company transition to the new style of business.

It is important to point out that we are fully committed to continuing to use redeployment and voluntary exits to manage WFM in the UK and Ireland. It is expected that up to 780 positions within ITO will be impacted through WFM in Q2.

Whilst I appreciate that this announcement may cause concern I am committed to providing regular updates to ensure that everyone is kept informed. Thank you for your continued professionalism at this time of uncertainty.

This comes as HP Enterprise prepares to relocate all ITO roles in the UK to its offices in Cobalt, Newcastle, and Erskine in Glasgow. HPE, which employs about 240,000 people globally, has vowed to axe up to 30,000 workers worldwide over the next couple of years.”

Another  memo sent today to HPE UK staff, Jacqui Ferguson, senior VP for HP Enterprise Services in UK and Ireland, said that:

“In the UK, part of our strategy for Enterprise Services is to move more delivery services to both our Regional Delivery Centres (RDCs) in Erskine and Newcastle and to our Global Delivery Centres (GDCs). In aligning to this strategy in the UK, we have started consultation on our plan for the reduction of additional roles during Q2, with the UK trade unions and HPE employee representatives in the Enterprise Services Business Units.

We’d like to assure you that we remain committed to supporting the employability of our employees through a number of internal initiatives, including re­skilling, redeployment and support to obtain alternative employment, as appropriate.”

Needless to say that morale at HPE is gutted and the fact that the company is doing well now that it has off-loaded its profit sapping PC side means that few could understand why it is happening.

 

Government slammed over out of date broadband

tin-can-phoneThe Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) has warned that the UK could miss out on the fourth industrial revolution if the government continues to ignore business broadband.

The EFF said that UK businesses were paying inflated prices for inadequate broadband.

In a report which asked 128 companies between December 1 and December 31 about their broadband connection, more than half of all mid-sized firms were paying over £5,000 a year for their internet access. And to make matters worse nearly half of companies based in business parks were unable to access speeds above 10Mbps.

Two-thirds of manufacturers surveyed said that they planned to invest in IoT related infrastructure and services.

Lee Hopley, EEF chief economist said that manufacturers needed best in class provision if Britain was to take advantage of the next industrial revolution and government cannot afford to think it is job done.

“While the quality of networks isn’t currently an issue, companies are paying inflated sums to have proper access and are fearful they will not have competitive access five years’ down the line.”

The EEF said that the government had placed too strong an emphasis on improving home broadband services and called for a review of the business broadband marketplace, with the aim of driving prices down by the end of the current parliament.

UK VARs unhappy with US Vendors

too_good_for_grumpy_catUK VARs are less happy with their vendor partners than their counterparts in the US, according to a new survey.

The research conducted by CompTIA surveyed more than 200 British channel firms earlier this year as part of its State of the UK Channel Report 2015 and compared the results to that of the same survey it carried out in the US.

According to the results only one in five UK resellers would give their vendors the highest possible satisfaction rating. In the US 40 percent thought their vendor is the bee’s knees.

Less than 12 percent of UK resellers were not satisfied with their vendor partners.

CompTIA’s senior vice president for industry relations Nancy Hammervik said it is “not surprising” the Brits were less enthusiastic than their US counterparts.

She thinks channel conflict could be partly to blame although geography does not help. The UK is not a primary indirect target for many US-based vendors. She said that UK partners may feel less satisfied due to vendors assigning less resources, communication, marketing support to regions compared to the US.

More than 40 percent of respondents said channel conflict with vendors has gone up in the last year.

“There are more vendors can do to ensure their channel partners are 100 per cent satisfied and happy selling their products,” Hammervik said.

“If a reseller knows that their supplier is reliable and offers a product that their customers will want, they will have the confidence to retain and expand the relationship, meaning more business and income for the vendor.”

Schools demand refund from Apple and its partner

Teachers-apple-on-a-desk-007The Los Angeles Unified School District wants a refund from Apple over a bungled $1.3 billion deal to supply students with iPads.

In 2013, the schools were to equip each of its roughly 650,000 students with an iPad in one of the largest educational technology projects of its kind in the United States.

The entire deal was constructed by John Deasy, a Superintendent at the nation’s second-largest school district. He resigned in October amid criticism that he “favoured” Apple and Pearson for the project over better and cheaper technology.

A KPCC investigation found Deasy and his deputies communicated with Pearson employees over pricing, teacher training and technical support — specifications that later resembled the district’s request for proposals from vendors. Pearson and Apple emerged as the winning bidders and were awarded the now-abandoned contract in June 2013.

The FBI is investigating the project, and agents in December seized 20 boxes of documents relating to the program’s purchasing process from the district’s headquarters.

The problem was that the technology was not up to the job and the built-in curriculum was often incomplete.

The Los Angeles Times said the LAUSD’s Board of Education in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday authorized its attorneys to consider potential legal action against Apple and its channel partner Pearson.

“As you are aware, LAUSD is extremely dissatisfied with the work of Pearson,” the district’s general counsel, David Holmquist, said in a letter to Apple on Monday. “While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solutio… they have yet to deliver it.”

Holmquist added that the district was severing ties with both companies for future services on the project, according to the Los Angeles Times.

However Pearson said that it was proud of its long history working with LAUSD and our significant investment in this ground-breaking initiative.

UK teams up with Israel over security

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 14.56.43Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office in matters of cyber security, said that the UK and Israel have established three collaboration ventures to get government funding for cyber security.

The governments will contribute £1.2 million of funding to create a bilateral cyber research programme, he said.

The Universities of Bristol and University College London will team up with Bar Ilan University, while the University of Kent will tie up with the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology.

The groups will work on six topics including identity management; governance; privacy assirance; mobile and cloud security; human aspects of security; and cryptography.

Maude said he wants the UK to be one of the safest places to do business online. “Cyber security is a shared global threat and I’m pleased that we are deepening our research relationship.”

The UK is a founding member of a global network called D5 – founding members also include South Korea, Estonia, Israel and New Zealand.

 

Hutchison Whampoa to buy 02

oxygen_maskHutchison Whampoa is expected to finalise a deal to buy Telefonica British mobile unit O2 for $15.70 billion today.

The companies did not face any major issues during the two months of due diligence, which could allow the deal to be announced on Tuesday.

The deal could be announced as early as this morning, but there is some possibility that it might be delayed.

Hutchison is chatting with wealth funds including China Investment Corporation, Singapore’s Temasek and GIC, and one of Qatar’s big government-sponsored outfits to provide the cash.

The company has plans to sell stake worth about 3 billion pounds, which makes about 30 percent of the group to outside investors, the newspaper reported.

Hutchison Whampoa is owned by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, and there might be those in the British government who are not that keen to have a British asset like O2 in the paws of the Chinese. However since no one minded when an Armada of Spanish financiers took the outfit out of British ownership, it is too late to bang Drake’s drum now.

ICO demands transparency for government outsourcing

parliamentThe Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today that when the government outsources technology it’s often very opaque.

Head of Policy at the ICO Steve Wood said freedom of information laws haven’t always been able to follow the public pound.

“We’re calling on public authorities and contractors to consider transparency from an early stage, before a contract is even signed. And we’re asking whether the government might need to step in to make sure the public can access the information they should be entitled to from big government funded contractors,” he said.

Expenditure on outsourced public services represents half of the £187 billion the government spends on goods and services. Sometimes, the ICO said, it is hard for people to negotiate their way through outsourcing contractors’ deals.

The ICO conducted a survey and 75 percent of people said that private companies acting on behalf of public authorities should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Police arrest 57 varieties of cyber crooks

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 14.16.57The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it has made 57 arrests in the UK this week for people suspected of illegal acts related to computers.

The alleged offences include network intrusion and data theft from enterprises and governments; distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks; cyber related fraud and malicious software and virus development.

The NCA worked with local police forces across the UK to make the arrests.

25 people in the London and Essex area were arrested by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of cyber fraud including theft and money laundering.

Five men were arrested in Kidlington, Oxford for an alleged conspiracy to commit computer misuse offences.

One man was arrested in the West Midlands on suspicion of network intrusion on the US Department of Defense.

Peter Goodman, deputy chief constable, said that cyber crime wasn’t victimless and SMEs can be bankrupted by cyber attacks. Publication of personal data could seriously affect people.

The NCA says people should go to www.getsafeonline.org and www.cyberstreetwise.com to stay up to date on how to keep your computer more secure.

BT goes on hybrid fibre diet

Fruit-and-fibreBT has surprised everyone by announcing that it is deploying next generation hybrid-fibre across the United Kingdom from 2016/17.

Dubbed G.fast broadband technology, it will provide “most homes” with speeds of ‘up to’ 500Mbps  and there’s also a “premium” option for up to 1000Mbps.

At present most of BT’s national deployment is dominated by its  hybrid Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) broadband technology, which delivers download speeds of up to 80Mbps by running a fibre optic cable to your local street cabinet and then using VDSL2 over the remaining / existing copper line from the cabinet to your home.

This works for properties that exist up to 400 metres away from their street cabinet, although the service has been known to reach 2,000 metres at a slower speed.

G.fast is similar technology but it requires more radio spectrum and needs to run over much less than 250 metres of copper. As a result the high capacity fibre optic line has to be taken even closer to homes, usually as far as a smaller remote node that can be built on top of a telegraph pole, inside a street cabinet or underground.

This is expensive, although BT should not need to dig up your garden or run a new physical line into homes.

BT conducted a field trial of mock-up G.fast technology earlier this year and on the shortest 19 metre copper line it managed to achieve aggregated speeds of around 1000Mbps or 231Mbps upload and 786Mbps download. By comparison the “long” 66 metre line produced 200Mbps upload and 696Mbps download.

There will be two pilots which will start this summer in Huntingdon and Gosforth with 4,000 homes and businesses participating to see if the technology scales up.

BT will set up G.fast from different points of its network, with the pilots allowing it to assess various rollout options. It is also planning to develop a premium fibre broadband service for those residential and business customers who want even faster broadband, of up to 1Gbps.

 

UK makes Google change privacy policy

OgleThe Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has made Google sign an undertaking to improve information about how it collects personal data in the UK.
The ICO said that following an investigation it found that Google’s search engine was “too vague” in describing how it used personal data it had collected.
The ICO said Google has signed a formal undertaking to make changes to its privacy policy so that it meets the needs of the UK Data Protection Act.
The ICO worked with other European data protection authorities, it said.
The enforcement officer at the ICO, Steve Eckersley, said: “This investigation has identified some important learning points not only for Google, but also for all organisations operating online, particularly when they seek to combine and use data across services.”
Google will have to make agreed changes by the 30th of June this year, and take even more steps over the next two years.
Google’s undertaking can be found here.

 

UK pledges to increase snooping with US

spyThe UK and the US are using the massacres in Paris as a pretext for “increasing co-operation” on snooping on internet users.

Prime Minister David “one is an ordinary bloke” Cameron said the two countries will set up “cyber cells” to share intelligence and conduct simulated attacks to test the defences of organisations such as banks.

Cameron is visiting Washington to tell them how to sort out their economy and security, and is due to have a second meeting with President Barack Obama today.

Cameron said that the two countries had  hugely capable cyber defences and the expertise and that is why they  should set up cyber cells on both sides of the Atlantic to share information, Cameron said.

The cooperation between Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency and the US National Security Agency will include joint war games, with the UK providing the Games Workshop figures and the US providing the rules, the polyhedral dice and the joints.

The first exercise later this year to involve the Bank of England and commercial banks in both the City of London and Wall Street. It is not clear who will be exercising but if you ask any bankers we have seen to do a push up the body bag count will be high.

“This is a real signal it is time to step up the efforts and to do more,” said Cameron.

The British leader said he also planned to discuss with Obama how the two countries could work more closely with big Internet companies such as Facebook and Google to monitor communications between terror suspects. This is of course something that Facebook and Google want nothing to do with, so chances are he will be talking about bringing in laws to force them.

One thing Cameron has not answered is that if the UK and US have such wonderful cyber ability and resources, how did the Paris attacks actually happen? It seems that the more snooping powers that the UK and the US demand, the less effect it has on the goal of preventing terrorism.

Amazon expands in EU

FireOnTheAmazonPosterOnline bookseller Amazon has created 6,000 new full-time positions in Europe in 2014 to respond to booming demand.

The company said that it now employed 32,000 permanent staff in the European Union, with the new jobs created in logistics centres, customer service, software development, supply chain management and design.

Amazon vice president for EU retail Xavier Garambois said the company was still investing and will be hiring even more in in 2015.

He said that customer demand in Europe was bigger than ever.

Amazon said around 1,200 of the new jobs were in Germany, its second-biggest market after the United States where it employs 10,000 warehouse staff plus more than 10,000 seasonal workers. Britain had the next most new positions with the rest spread around other countries.

It does not seem that Amazon is particularly concerned about the increased union militancy of its staff in Germany. Last year Amazon was been hit in Germany by a series of strikes over pay and working conditions.

Trade union Verdi has organized frequent strikes since May 2013 to try to force the retailer to raise pay for warehouse workers in accordance with collective bargaining agreements across Germany’s mail order and retail industry.

So far these issues have not been resolved and Amazon insists that its warehouse staff are logistics workers and that they receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

 

Ofcom says broadband coverage patchy

parliamentDespite the government maintaining that the UK is on track to deliver broadband just about everywhere in the country, regulator Ofcom said economics mean that’s just not going to happen.

Ofcom said in a report that communication services are used by an average UK adult for over half of their waking hours.

That means, coverage, capacity, and reliability of the digital infrastructure are of fundamental importance to both people and to businesses.

But, said Ofcom: “The economics of networks means there are parts of the UK that will not be fully served by the market.  There are also some services which may not be provided to all by the market.”

Either Ofcom or the government could intervene to make life better for people/

Ofcom said that fixed broadband technology is “almost universally available” – the average download speed is 23Mbit/s. But broadband speeds vary quite a lot, the organisatiion said.

The government aims to provide universal availability of at least 2Mbit/s – only three percent of UK sites fall below this.  But this causes difficulties for those affected.

Fifteen percent of UK households can’t get 10Mbit/s speed/

Ofcom said that the government target to deliver superfast broadband to 95 percent of premises by 2017 “is an aggressive target”.  About 18 percent of households still don’t access the internet, whether fixed or mobile.

UK high on Google purge lists

OgleThe European Court of Justice told Google that it had to remove information under its so-called “right to be forgotten” law and now it has emerged that one in 10 requests came from the UK.

According to the BBC, Google has taken down nearly 500,000 links from its search engine since May.  And, of those, 63,616 were UK requests.

Google doesn’t have to take down sites on requests, but people have a right to appeal if it decides not to.

Out of the 498,737 URLs it looked at, based on 146,357 requests, France accounted for the most requests, followed by Germany and then the UK.  Of the requests it received, Google removed 41.8 percent, and left 58.2 percent of them online.

Google said it gt a request from a defrocked vicar to remove two links covering an investigation of sexual abuse accusations.  It didn’t remove the pages.

Facebook accounted for most requests to remove references, followed by profileengine.com