Making your IT work for you

Bite-sized blogs

Apple – tightening security in the cloud

After logging onto iCloud via the desktop the other day, I was intrigued to shortly afterwards receive an email from Apple.


The email informed me that I had signed onto the iCloud via a web browser, but if I had recently signed onto iCloud (which I had done) I could disregard the email.

Clearly after all the scandal of last week with iCloud pictures being hacked from celebrity Aplpe accounts, Apple are keen to demonstrate efforts to safeguard accounts.

Are these steps sufficient? Is your Cloud accounts secure, or would it be better to take control of your data by creating your own cloud?

I’m becoming more convinced that taking control of our own Cloud information is important, especially if you store all your valuable information on it. Products like Own Cloud are designed to put you in control of your data, which includes backing up your information.

icloudFor me the jury is still out as to whether the iCloud account of Jennifer Lawrence was hacked or a security flaw has been identified using a tool developed by ElcomSoft for infiltrating iCloud accounts. For me, a more fundamental issue is who’s data is it, and whether a ‘public’ cloud will always be a target for hackers rather than taking personal control.




Creating your own cloud…

After revelations released by BBC news last week that All USB devices are ‘critically flawed’, it points the way towards using a web-based solution for file sharing as a essential alternative for transferring files.

Dropbox has become an incredibly useful tool, enabling you to easily share files across multiple devices.

Clearly it’s suffered bad press over the years after a number of security hacks, but in essence the idea is brilliant. There are alternative solutions available, which can reduce concerns about the security of the data, and put you in control.

OwnCloudOne such solution is OwnCloud. This Open Source software effectively allows you to create your own DropBox equivalent service installed on your own server. It also provides the apps for your PC, MAC and mobile devices to synchronise files with the server. These work silently in the background watching specific folders, and synchronising files between your device and the server.

There is a certain amount of technical knowledge you will need to setup your Own Cloud, mainly installation on a server and setting up of a secure HTTPS site to encrypt data between your device and the server. However, it will keep you in totally control of your data. We’ve recently configured such a service to act as a secure ‘drop-off point’, where large, confidential files can be exchanged between parties without sending via email.

In an age when we need to send larger files and email systems begin to groan under the weight of increasing file sizes, creating a place to upload and share your files in a secure location, really makes sense…



Ministry of Justice Video Collaboration

In November 2013 as part of the National Family DR week, we released a video on YouTube titled ‘Understanding Family Mediation’. This collaborative project was designed to explain through visual media, the benefits of family mediation for separating couples compared with going through court. The project was developed in conjunction with Professor Elizabeth Stokoe of Loughborough University, Paul Gadd Director at Protocol IT and Euan Lockwood Director at Kerf Design.

In March Understanding Family Mediation2014, the Ministry of Justice contacted Liz Stokoe and Paul Gadd to discuss the possibility of collaborating to create a single video. This initially involved providing updates to the script from their original ‘birds’ style Prezi video. After a number of weeks, the MoJ decided to adopt our character style video and backing music with a new script. After two months of development the final version was released on the 28th May 2014, along with revised family mediation leaflets and posters using branding images from the video.

The video brings together various components:

  • Legal information incorporated in the text script provided by the MoJ
  • CARM text (Conversation Analytic Role-play Method) developed by Liz Stokoe in the script
  • Visual elements developed by Protocol IT and Kerf Design to depict various demographics
  • Technical Prezi and video skills provided by Protocol IT and the MoJ Design team
  • Background music developed by Protocol IT

The final visual and audio components were assembled by the MoJ design team into the final video, with input from Liz Stokoe and Paul Gadd

Some of the CARM text incorporated in the original video had to be adjusted to meet requirements of the legal team at the MoJ. However we feel that the message explaining that family mediation as an alternative to going to court, has not been lost in the changes.

The project demonstrates how collaboration can successfully bring different skills together to effectively communicate a message.

Windows XP – The clock is ticking

xp-eol2In 2002 Microsoft introduced its Support Lifecycle policy based on customer feedback to have more transparency and predictability of support for Microsoft products. As per this policy, Microsoft Business and Developer products, including Windows and Office products, receive a minimum of 10 years of support (5 years Mainstream Support and 5 years Extended Support), at the supported service pack level.

As a consequence, Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 will go out of support on April 8, 2014. If your organization has not started the migration to an alternative predating system, you are not too late. However, based on historical customer deployment data, the average enterprise deployment can take anything from 2 to 18 months from business case through full deployment. To ensure you remain on supported versions of Windows and Office, you should begin your planning and application testing immediately to ensure you deploy before end of support.

There has been much debate online as to the practical issues that will affect businesses from this date. Some IT experts are predicting the release of new malware to exploit flaws in the operating system, which will remain unpatched. There are more subtle issues which will unfold, as printers, and other 3rd party software no longer support XP which results in incompatibility issues where (over time) programs fail to work.  Whatever your personal opinion, one thing is clear, this will have an impact. This may not have a direct impact on the 8th April, but a migration policy is something that does need to be planned for.

New Understanding Family Mediation video

Understanding Family MediationOver the past couple of months, we’ve been collaborating on a project to create a prezi called ‘Understanding Family Mediation‘ to mark the end of National Family Dispute Resolution week (Nov 25-29th). It’s purpose is to provide a greater understanding of family mediation as an alternative to court.

Following academic research (Stokoe, 2011; 2013a; 2013b) on barriers to mediation, and feedback from family mediators themselves, it was clear that some elements of the MoJ prezi potentially dissuade people from attending mediation, rather than work to promote it. We set about changing the text and images to use key phrases that will encourage people to attend.

The latest version of the project can be found on YouTube and is designed for embedding on websites to help explain family mediation. YouTube provide an easy way to embed a YouTube player on your website. Simply include the following code onto the HTML section of a page on your website :

<div style=”text-align:center;”> < object width=”425″ height=”350″ data=”” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”><param name=”src” value=”” /></object> < /div>

Update 27/6/14

Please note that link needs to be updated to the MoJ adopted version of the video :

<div style=”text-align:center;”> < object width=”425″ height=”350″ data=”” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash”><param name=”src” value=”” /></object> < /div>

This is definitely not the final version, but a work in progress…

The project was developed by the following partners:
Prof Elizabeth Stokoe – Loughborough University
Dr Frederick Attenborough – Loughborough University
Paul Gadd – Protocol IT Ltd
Euan Lockwood – Kerfdesign

Use of the video

Creative Commons Licence

The YouTube and Prezi files are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the collaborative partners.

Interactive Whiteboards

Following on from demonstrations at several family mediation conferences over the past couple of years, we are pleased to announce we are now in a position to sell the PNF product range.

pnf-uboardRather than selling you the product and expecting you to install and get it up and running on your own, we offer support to help develop templates to help you benefit from the technology. Simply plugging the equipment in and connecting to a projector is a good start, however to gain the full benefit of making time with clients more effient you need to develop a strategy and templates for using the technology.

Please contact us for more details.