Author Archive for M Jacks

Live Half-Day Virtual Training

After the success of our Virtual Online Training, Infero is now able to offer Training that is even more flexible and convenient. It is now possible to divide your training into half-days, allowing you to complete your course whilst still maintaining your work schedule, attending important meetings and meeting other commitments. This is Remote learning tailored exactly to you and your organisation’s requirements.

“…delivered to suit you, your work-patterns and the requirements of your organisation.”

At Infero, we know how difficult it can be to schedule training, especially in the current situation; juggling the availability of team members and complex working can be hard to do, but there is a solution.

…full interaction with your trainer, and…having the flexibility of breaking your course into half day sessions.”

Infero can now offer all of our Training Courses, from Microsoft Office through to Time Management divided into half days of Virtual Online Training. This means that it is now possible to train for half a day, whilst working for the other half. You can choose either morning sessions for your training, or afternoon sessions, or even a mixture of both.

Infero’s Virtual Online Training has all of the advantages of Classroom study, but without the effort and cost of travelling. You get the full interaction with your trainer that you would expect in a normal course, whilst still being able to keep up with your day to day working commitments. Find out more about Virtual Online Training here.

“Virtual training is an online, interactive classroom where people meet live. Participants engage in learning activities and interact with the Trainer/Facilitator, as well as each other…allowing group discussion, individual questions and practice exercises, all in real time.”

 For our training at Infero, we use WebEx video training platform. It is exceptionally easy to check if your system meets WebEx requirements, but all you really need is an internet-connected computer or laptop, with either a built-in microphone or headphones with a mic. For some courses you may require an additional screen. This can be a second computer monitor, a normal TV (to which you can connect using a standard HDMI cable used to connect most peripherals), or even a tablet.

Infero had now made it possible to have Live, Online Training that provides full interaction with your trainer, and at the same time having the flexibility of breaking your course into half day sessions. This can then be delivered to suit you, your work-patterns and the requirements of your organisation.

6 Easy Ways to Improve Your Computer Skills

Computers are everywhere. They are in almost every workplace and, with the increase in Remote working, they have become even more important. This means that now, more than ever, it is important to have basic computer skills, or to be ‘computer literate’, as it is sometimes known. Computer literacy also makes you more efficient and productive in the workplace and increases your desirability to employers.

So just how do you develop and enhance your computer skills?

1. Start with the Basics

For some very good reasons, there are some people who still can’t accomplish basic tasks such as typing, powering a computer on and off, or learning keyboard commands. If you fall into this category, don’t worry. Many local authorities in the UK provide basic computer courses. The BBC also provides a beginner’s guide that can be downloaded and printed or viewed on a tablet or phone. If  you want to get know how to use Windows, there are lots of tutorials and other learning material on the Microsoft website. You can even start learning without a computer. There are many books that cover basic computer skills.

2. Just Try It

Don’t be afraid to try something on a computer. There are very few things (short of using a hammer) that will permanently break your machine. Just be sure that you have copies of anything important before you experiment. Like anything, regular practice will enhance your skills, making it easier to perform these tasks often. And learning more advanced computer skills will become less intimidating.

3. Search for Answers Online

Once you have mastered the basics, if you do come across something that confuses you, search online. Just ‘Google it’. You will be surprised how many step-by-step articles you will find that will cover what you want exactly. 

4. Take a Course

If you want to learn specific software like Microsoft Office, there are lots of courses you can find online, some of them even free. These will increase your knowledge and skills. Of course, Infero offers courses at all levels and for many different software packages. Not only that, we offer Virtual Courses, conducted online, with a live trainer, able to re-explain or go over any area and answer any questions.

5. Get Together with Other People

There may be a Computer Club near you that has meetings for beginnings. In the office, if you have a computer skill or program you want to learn but don’t have the resources, you can try talking to your managers. If there are other employees in the office with the same requirement, your company may be more willing to consider training if they know there is a general need, or if they see that it’s to their advantage.

6. Help Someone Else

Studies have shown that the best way to understand a concept yourself is to teach it to someone else. Also, the people you help may ask questions that you may not have ever thought of. Helping them will expand your own understanding and help someone in the process.

The thing to remember is not to be scared of Computers. Computers are designed to do exactly what you tell them to do and are really much simpler than you think. Who knows what you could accomplish!

How to Maintain Work Friendships when Remote Working

Many studies have shown that having friends at work is vital and makes you seven times more likely to be engaged in your job. People with workplace friendships are nearly 3 times more likely to say that they love their companies and 2 times less likely to be poached by another company. Good interaction has positive effects on our well-being.

“Connecting with people boosts our mood and our morale, and friendships provide us with the emotional and psychological strength to deal with whatever comes our way”

– Annie McKee

Friends at work make you more motivated and up to seven times more productive. There is no doubt that having someone in the workplace to cheer you up when you’re down or chat to when you’re bored can massively improve how much you enjoy your time at work. The work produced is better in fact; employees with a friend have a 35% higher dedication to quality than their counterparts.

People with friends at work have a much higher level of workplace satisfaction, are more loyal to the company and less likely to leave. They also act as brand ambassadors speaking well about the company and are less likely to leave, decreasing office turnover. People with good office friendships are just happier.

Of course, our relationships within the workplace should also remain positive and professional and not become inappropriate. Harassment, favouritism, and abuse of authority, can also stem from close social rapport between co-workers. It’s important to avoid all the pitfalls of office relationships and respect people’s boundaries. A good way to do this is to avoid office gossip. We should also ensure we include non-friends in work projects, and treat everybody, those we like and those we may not like so much, fairly and equally.

However, as long as a healthy balance is struck, leading scientists and psychologists agree that good social relationships are immensely beneficial. Organisations are simply a network of people. The better balanced the relationships between those people become, the better the organisation functions.

Is Working from Home the New Normal?

The Coronavirus Pandemic has meant that many people have been furloughed or working from home. As lockdown has been lifted, personal and professional remain distinctly different from before Covid-19. Since remote working does not seem to have harmed productivity, many believe that it is a ‘new normal’, with up to 75% of employees wanting to continue working from home.

Certainly staff are reporting improved productivity and job satisfaction and companies that continue working from home will be able to reduce fixed and overhead costs. No more stress  traffic and road rage on the office commute. Workers also have the freedom to  run errands usually unmanageable in  a 9-5 routine.

Some critics argue that the convenience of flexible working can’t compensate for what’s lost in creativity and connectedness. Are the figures on increased productivity misleading?

There’s strong evidence that working in teams yield better results. Social psychologist Floyd Allport found that people worked better in teams, even if they weren’t collaborating, establishing an effect known as ‘social facilitation’. So, employees and businesses alike must ask themselves whether working from home is actually as beneficial as it’s been made out to be.

Remote working is likely to become a big part of our future.  Some will enjoy the increased freedom and flexibility but others will long for the days before COVID reshaped the workplace and there are warnings of ‘ghost towns’ if staff do not return to the office. 

Given the importance of workplace relationships there are ways to improve connectivity among the workforce and measures can be implemented to create a connected workforce bridging physical gaps. Activities focusing on relationship building can be adapted to online work environments, with the addition of virtual coffee breaks, regular check-ins, virtual mentoring & lunch catch-ups. Companies should implement measures that build trust and show support. To achieve this, leaders within organisations must take action to provide support during times of excessive stress or concern.

The government is currently urging workers to return to work, if they can. If companies follow Government Guidelines correctly then returning to the workplace will be very different experience, with colleagues wearing masks, separated by partitions and one way systems. There will be fewer people in the office, as businesses will have to limit numbers in the office, to allow for social distancing.

Polls also show that many want to continue working from home. Some argue that what will emerge is a hybrid model, with much more flexibility. Whatever is eventually the outcome, it is certain that work friendships and the dynamics of office interaction will be different.

The Pandemic Is Changing Work Friendships

Co-workers had little choice but to bond when they spent 40 hours a week together. But if widespread remote work sticks around, those relationships will never be the same.  If having a close work friend does increase productivity, and even company loyalty, will these changes have long term effects?

“What we’re doing through virtual work is we’re neutralizing the social aspect of [work],”

–  Hilla Dotan

We may need to be proactive to maintain relationships that once were easy, since we are no longer spending thirty to forty hours in the company of colleagues.  Remote-work friendships may need extra effort, which will not be easy, especially as the longer term effects of the pandemic start to be seen. It is likely, though, that people will likely still go the extra mile for co-workers they really connect with. It is time to remember just how important the support of work place friends can be.

Friendship/Read A New Book Month

September is the ninth month of the year and the third of four months to have a length of 30 days. It is also Friendship Month and Read a New Book Month. Friendship Month celebrates the importance of friendship and what is means for us all, whilst Read a New Book Month is an opportunity to finally complete the novel you haven’t finished.

Friendship Month

We rely on our friends and we require friendships to feel emotionally and socially fulfilled. Friendship Month is all about celebrating what friendship can do for us. Friends can help us with problems and make us happier and better balanced. The time we spend with friends is vitally important and Friendship Month aims to recognise that fact.

Friendship Month is an opportunity to reach out to new people and make friends with them. We’re never too old to make new friends and that’s something that more people are now realising; in part, thanks to Friendship Month.

History of Friendship Month

Friendship month was founded in 2010 by The Oddfellows Friendly Society, who have no political or religious affiliations, stating “we’re here for everyone – from all walks of life and ages.”

How to Celebrate Friendship Month

There is a range of activities and events organised by Oddfellows that you can get involved with, for Friendship month. Even the current climate has not stopped this and they have lots of online social events planned and virtual open days, as well as a number of socially-distanced outdoor ones, too. You’ll have a good time and meet regulars who attend each year.

However, Friendship Month is something you can recognise privately if you wish, by spending more time with your friends and appreciating them. Or by getting back in touch with people who you may have lost touch with.

Use the excuse of Friendship Month to contact the people you perhaps have been meaning to get in touch with for a long time.

Hashtag  #FriendshipMonth

Read A New Book Month

There is nothing better than reading a book. When you open a book you enter new worlds, and find yourself swept up in the lives of extraordinary characters. Or the book may be a history book, an academic tome, an autobiography or an instructional manual.  The best books, even non-fiction, have a story that shares the vision of the author. During Read A New Book Month, dive into a novel or open that DIY manual you bought to finish that project

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King

History of Read A New Book Month

The first written word appeared in 3400BC, and the first story was The Epic of Gilgamesh, the ruler of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk between 2700-2500BC, told in a mythological style. This first tale was written on clay tablets, and through history books have been written on bark pages, rolled pages of papyrus, right up to the books and e-readers we’re familiar with today.

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” – Margaret Fuller

Celebrate Read A New Book Month

Read A Book Month encourages you to take in as many books as you can. At the least during the month, read one new book. If you want to be more ambitious try reading a new book every week, and swap books with friends and family. Join a book club or set up your own. And don’t let Read A New Book Month go by without trying a new author!

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

Hashtag  #ReadANewBookMonth

10 Ways to Manage Time Effectively

Do you manage your time well or are there never enough hours in the day? For many, Lockdown and the increased trend for working from home has been a been a boon for productivity, but if you struggle to keep on top of work wherever you are, these tips are for you.

The UK has had a productivity problem for a while now. The figure, which is measured by output per hour worked, has flatlined over the last decade and was even dropping quite sharply at the end of 2019, and we have yet to see the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic will have. Having effective Time management skills will increase your own productivity and your value to the business you work for. They are also very useful in your personal life. Following the tips below will be a great start to improving your managing of Time.

1. Have a way to Check the Time

It sounds obvious, but have a clock or watch placed visibly in front of you. Keep a check on what you are doing and don’t spend an hour on emails instead of completing important projects.

2. Set a Time Limit

Decide that you need to finish Task A by 10am, Task B by 3pm, and Task C by 5:30pm etc. Don’t allow tasks to drag on and take time from other activities. You can even ‘Time Box’ your activities, which means allocating a fixed time period to a planned activity, working on the activity for that period and stopping when the time is up.

3. Have a To-Do List

Everyone had tried this, but just having a list of things to do does not make you into a Time Management wizard. If you only spend five minutes writing your To-Do list, then it will probably be of no help at all. A To-Do list requires thought. Plan too many big tasks in your daily list and it is inevitable that you will not get them done. Creating a task list is not secondary thing to try to do as quickly as possible. Making a task list realistic will mean completing it will be less stressful for you.

Not Too Many Tasks for One Day – It is difficult to say how many tasks you should plan for, but the biggest mistake most people make is to have too many on their list. Obviously, it depends on the work you are doing, but 5-10 tasks should be enough for a day.

Balanced – The task list contains both important and less important tasks. We may be tempted to work only on the most important tasks, but we have to take care of the less important tasks as well.

Flexible – What happens when you have planned a task, but cannot do it for whatever reason? Have a plan B in place. Know what you are going to do if your To-Do list does not go to plan

4. Do the Most Important Tasks First

Get the most important tasks done in the morning. The large, most important and stressful tasks should be tackled as early as possible. You have the most energy in the morning, so that’s when you are better equipped to do the most difficult tasks. It will also give you a feeling of accomplishment and make the rest of the day that much better.

5. Plan Ahead

Time management will just not work unless you plan ahead. And plan ahead as far as possible. For the next year, or month, or week or at very least the next day. If you know what is required in advance, large tasks can be broken down over days or even weeks, making them much easier to achieve. Good planning will transform how you work.

6. Delegate

If you need to focus on bigger or more complicated tasks, then perhaps other tasks can be delegated to others. Or trust other people to complete more complex tasks by themselves, so that your own time is freed. If it makes sense you can even outsource the work to an outside agency.

7. Focus on One Task at a Time

Multitasking is something that computers do. For human beings, it is a myth. If you start a task, finish it. Don’t, for instance, abandon writing a report to start to check and reply to email. Momentum is lost, as well as concentration and your time management suffers. Close any applications and browser tabs that you don’t need and focus solely on what you’re doing.

8. Target to Be Early

Be clear on when you need to finish your tasks and mark deadlines in your calendar and organizer. If fact, target to be early. If you target to be on time, then you may actually end up being late. Target to be early and even if you take longer, you can still be on time.

9. Prioritise

It is impossible to do everything, so do learn to prioritise. Apply the 80/20 principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. That is, by ensuring that you get the top 20% most important tasks done, you should receive 80% of the benefits of completing all your work.

10. Don’t Try to be Perfect

Do your best work and don’t be careless, but don’t try to make everything perfect. Once you’ve finished a task and given it your best, then move on.

And some quick, bonus tips:

  • Use a Calendar and or Organiser
  • Block out Distractions 
  • Batch Similar Tasks Together
  • Eliminate Time Wasters like Social Media
  • Plan 10 to 15 minutes for transition between tasks

Effective time management, ultimately, is having the right attitude. Whatever you do, remember to take time to rest and relax. There is a lot more to Time Management, Delegation and other related areas. Infero has a range of courses to help you get better in all of these.

The Top 10 Keyboard Shortcuts for Google Chrome

Although internet access is through phones and tablets, half of web traffic is still through devices like PCs and laptops. These devices are ideal for heavy browsing and research and have keyboards, so it is possible to take advantage of keyboard shortcuts whilst working online.

Keyboard shortcuts are efficient and time-saving. When you are not constantly reaching for the mouse and instead using shortcuts, there will be a boost to your productivity. For instance, selecting all of the text in a document can be achieved by using the key combination of Ctrl + A.  Key combinations also more accurate than even the best mouse when it comes to precise actions like highlighting text or selecting cells in a spreadsheet.

Using keyboard shortcuts can also have measurable health benefits, reducing the risk of  RSI (Repetitive Syndrome Injury) and ULD (Upper Limb Disorders), which repetitive tasks like mouse use can cause.

Google Chrome is, by a long way, the most popular internet browser. Although it’s share is falling, as of June 2020, it still accounted for 65 to 69% of all web-browsing. With that in mind, we here at Infero have put together the most useful Chrome shortcuts to boost your productivity when browsing.

(NB: Many of the shortcuts below use the Control Key. In Windows, this will be labelled Ctrl and on Macs it will have the symbol )

1.  Open a New Tab

  • On Windows: Ctrl + T
  • On Mac: ⌘ + T

It is easy enough to open a new tab by pressing the + button at the top of the browser, but if you get into the habit of using this shortcut, you will never look back.

2. Close Active Tab

  • On Windows: Ctrl + W
  • On Mac: ⌘ + W

Instead of mouse  clicking the small X to close individual tabs on Chrome, simply press Ctrl + W instead. This closes the tab that’s current active (i.e. the one being seen on your screen).

3. Open Last Closed Tab

  • On Windows: Ctrl + Shift + T
  • On Mac: ⌘ + Shift + T

This is possibly the most useful shortcut as it enables you to open the last browser tab you closed – great when you have accidentally closed a tab. It is possible to use this more than once, to re-open multiple closed tabs in the order they were closed. (This feature does not work in Incognito Mode – see below).

4. Enable Incognito Mode

  • On Windows: Ctrl + Shift + N
  • On Mac: ⌘ + Shift + N

Incognito Mode allows private browsing and does not leave a record of your browsing history, useful on shared workstations. Chrome is also blocked from saving cookies, temporary Internet files that contain your IP address, login details, and other browsing information.

5. Minimize the Active Window

  • On Windows: Ctrl + M
  • On Mac: ⌘ + M

If you have multiple windows open instead of tabs, you can minimize the active open window by pressing Ctrl + M. Useful if you have browser windows stacked on top of one another.

6. Jump Between Next & Previous Tabs

  • On Windows: Ctrl + PgDn (Next open tab) or Ctrl + PgUp (Previous open tab)
  • On Mac: ⌘ + Option + Right arrow (Next open tab) and ⌘ + Option + Left arrow (Previous open tab)

If you have multiple tabs open in Chrome, instead of clicking each one to check what is on it , use this shortcut to cycle through all tabs, either forward or backward.

7.  Open the Bookmarks Manager

  • On Windows: Ctrl + B
  • On Mac: ⌘ + Option + B

This opens the Bookmarks Manager on Chrome and allows you to organise your bookmarks. From here you can open and delete individual bookmarks, create bookmark folders, and move bookmarks into different folders.

8. Open Downloads Page

  • On Windows: Ctrl + J
  • On Mac: ⌘ + Option + L

This shortcut allows you to see the files you downloaded using Chrome. It also allows access to downloaded files directly through the browser rather than using File Explorer.

9. Clear Browsing Data

10. Snap Cursor to the Search Bar

  • On Windows: Ctrl + L
  • On Mac: ⌘ + L

This shortcut does exactly what it says on the tine and moves your cursor to the search bar, so that you can Google something or type in a URL.

As a bonus, here are some basic Navigation shortcuts that will work in ALL browsers:

Keyboard ShortcutAction
F5Refresh
Ctrl + F5Refresh and reset the browser cache for the current page.
Alt + Left ArrowBack
Alt + Right ArrowForward
Alt + HomeReturn to Homepage
EscapeStop
F6Select the address bar (Alt+D and Ctrl+L also works here)
F11Fullscreen mode, exit fullscreen mode
HomeScroll to top of page
EndScroll to bottom of page
SpacebarScroll down
Shift+ SpacebarScroll up
Page Down / UpScroll down / up
Ctrl + CCopy selected text
Ctrl + XCut (copy and delete original) text
Ctrl + VPaste copied text

Using these shortcuts will save time, have health benefits and improve your productivity. You don’t have to use them all, but try a few and see how they work for you. You may find that you start to use your mouse less and less.

Incredibly Inventive Uses of Excel

August is Inventor’s Month. Most people could name very famous inventors like Albert Einstein or Alexander Graham Bell, but what about Tim Berners-Lee, who essentially invented the internet or Katharine Burr Blodgett who created the non-reflective glass used on camera lenses and computer screens? And what about those who are astoundingly inventive with our favourite spreadsheet program, Excel?

Excel was designed for such things as Data entry, Accounting, Scheduling, Producing charts, Identifying trends and many other business uses, but with a surprisingly broad range of graphical options, and with the possibilities that VBA and macros offer, it can stretch well beyond its intended use. Even Excel’s designers and programmers could not have imagined some of the more inventive and unexpected uses of Excel.

Make Music with Excel

Youtuber Dylan Tallchief created a drum machine in Microsoft Excel, but didn’t stop there. He went on to create a fully functional Excel DAW (“Digital Audio Workstation”) called xlStudio. There’s a transport section with playback controls, a looping function, the ability to solo and mute tracks, and it even exports projects as .als files. You can try out xlStudio for yourself by downloading it for free on Google Drive.

Sudoku Solver and Generator

If you are a fan of Sudoku and are want new Sudoku games to play, this humble .xlsm file, utilising the program’s VBA capabilities is for you! It generates an unlimited number of different Sudokus and even solves ones that you are stuck on. Designed by Bruce McPherson, there is an explanation of how it was put together on his website and you can download it here.

Make a Realistic Digital Clock in MS Excel

It sounds impossible, but you really can make a realistic looking digital clock in MS Excel. Find out how in a series of videos on the excellent Excel Unusual website, which has a large number of different ‘unusual’ examples of Excel use. This one requires some work in PowerPoint and working with VBA.

A Working Flight Simulator

Another project from Excel Unusual uses the program to build a functional flight simulator. The visuals are basic, but still impressive and use the mouse as the joystick of the aircraft. It isn’t a ‘game’ as such, more of an exploration of just how far the limits of Excel can be pushed.  If you are interested, find out more and download the Excel Workbook using the link above.

Incredible Excel Art

Excel provides the tools for creating your own digital art. It requires creativity, but you can work using Excel’s basic shapes (or autoshapes) It will also take practice before you reach the standard of  Tatsuo Horiuchi, who layers countless Shape designs over one another to create seriously impressive artwork.

Take a look at some Horiuchi creations here.

Monopoly

One of the world’s most popular games, this example puts an actual Monopoly board into an Excel spreadsheet, which allows play with 3 different people.

Once you are familiar with the tools and functions in Excel, there is very little you can’t use it for. At Infero, we offer courses at all Levels of Excel. Once you have the knowledge, the only limits are your imagination.

Happiness Happens Month

August is Happiness Happens month. It is a whole month dedicated to celebrating what makes us happy. Its simple premise is that there is no limit on happiness. Moreover, happiness is contagious and can be shared with others.

The Secret Society of Happy People was founded in 1999. It instituted an “Admit You’re Happy Day” on August 8th of 1999. This wasn’t enough, however, so in 2000, they expanded the celebration to include the entire month of August.

Happiness is actually hard to define, although most of us would say that we know it when we feel it. In her 2007 book ‘The How to of Happiness’, Sonja Lyubomirsky defines happiness as:

 “The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

The most important thing to remember is that Happiness is a choice. It is also the case that just because you are happy it does not mean you are problem free. Happiness is not a destination, but rather a journey.

“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive”

― Robert Louis Stevenson

The Stoics of Ancient Greece observed that happiness is about the quality of your thoughts. The essence of stoicism is this: no matter what is wrong with the world in general, and your life in particular, you can choose to be happy if you learn how.

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
― Abraham Lincoln

The idea of Happiness Happens is that people share the little things that make them happy each day with others. Making someone else happy is often one of the best ways to make yourself happy. You can make someone else happy by a simple kind gesture, from something grand like making someone a special meal, or simply by giving a compliment or sending a quick “thinking of you” message.  

 Happiness Happens can be observed by noticing more of these happy moments and sharing them with others. Use #HappinessHappensMonth in social media.  Just remember that Happiness Happens.

“Happiness too is inevitable”

― Albert Camus

The Ten Best Free Cloud Storage Services

Cloud storage is a computing model that stores data on the Internet and allows “anytime, anywhere” data access. Cloud computing providers manage and operate this data storage as a service, ranging from offerings for individuals to business plans for very large companies. Depending on the cloud service chosen, files can be backed up manually or automatically and then accessed via your web browser. Paid for plans can be very expensive, however, so we here at Infero have put together a list of the top-ten best free plans for you.

Is Cloud storage Safe?

Cloud storage companies typically use encryption to keep your information safe and two-step verification to ensure the right person has access to the account.

Zero-knowledge encryption is private, end-to-end encryption and means that no-one apart from you can access your data, not even the service you’re storing your files with. This is because encryption is performed on your local device before the files are transferred to the cloud. The downside is that if you lose your password, the data is gone forever.

Dropbox

Dropbox is the best known of cloud storage providers with 2GB on its free plan. It is easy to use, but its features are basic, although it does allow you to share your files publicly. It is possible to expand your free Dropbox storage up to 16GB by referring new users. Dropbox has suffered data breaches in the past and doesn’t support zero-knowledge encryption.

pCloud

pCloud’s has 10GB of storage free, but you are required to do additional tasks such as refer others to pCloud to get this. It has a built-in HD media-player that allows videos to be played and lets you build your own playlists from your saved music files.  It does not have zero knowledge encryption, however.

Sync.com

Sync.com has 5GB of free cloud storage, upgradable to 10TB of storage on its paid for plans There are no file size limits. It is one of the best free cloud storage options for Android, with an easy-to-use mobile app. It’s also one of the best zero-knowledge cloud storage providers.

Google Drive

If you have a Google account, you already have 15GB free of free storage. which seamlessly integrates with Google Docs. However, there are privacy concerns; Google has been known to scan users’ files without permission, and it doesn’t include file encryption. To get extra storage you will need a for paid plan, but extra storage can be shared with family members. There is also good support for backups.

MEGA

Mega calls itself “The Privacy Company” and has zero-knowledge encryption for files. New users get 50GB of free cloud storage, but this is temporary. The default free cloud storage amount on the free MEGA plan is 15GB; the extra 35GB expires after 30 days. Extra storage can be unlocked by installing the desktop/mobile apps and by referring users, but these too expire. There is end-to-end encryption for secure chats and integrated file versioning and recovery. However, transfer speeds are slow.

Amazon Drive

Amazon Drive offers 5GB of storage free for anyone subscribed to Amazon Prime, but as a service, it’s fairly basic, has few features, and no encryption for your files. Amazon Drive does have unlimited photo storage, and it is possible to create a shared “family vault” to combine and store shared albums. If you have Amazon Drive you may already have this, but not be using it.

Apple iCloud

Apple iCloud is simple. It is just there, available as a storage drive in your Mac Finder app, or as a backup solution for your iOS devices, with 5GB free online storage for Apple users. iCloud does come with two-factor authentication, and data is encrypted. It’s not zero-knowledge, but Apple has, in many high-profile cases, refused to give data to authorities. Upgrades are also relatively cheap.

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive is similar to Google Drive. It directly integrates cloud storage with Microsoft Office, i.e. you can save Word documents straight to your OneDrive storage. Free users get 5GB of storage, with a 20GB file-size limit. An Office 365 subscription, gets 1TB of storage. The storage can also be used with Microsoft’s mobile and desktop apps. Because of its seamless integration with Office, it is the best online storage for collaboration. Security wise, OneDrive offers encryption for files. Microsoft’s does, however, have a history of incidents regarding the privacy of its users’ data.

Box

It is geared towards businesses, but Box also offers personal plans. There is a desktop app for syncing between your computer’s hard drive and your account. The mobile app allows you to upload and access files online from your smartphone or tablet. There is 10GB of free storage with an individual file size limit of 250MB. Box for Office also lets you open, edit and save files in Box from within Microsoft Office

BT Cloud

All BT broadband customers get some storage space with BT Cloud, either 10GB, 200GB or 1,000GB depending on your broadband package. To find out your allowance, log into My BT and click on the ‘Manage BT Cloud’ button under ‘Your included extras’. It is possible to pay to get extra storage.

Keeping Your Online Storage Secure

It is important to keep your online storage and data safe:

  • Change your password regularly and don’t use the same password across multiple websites.
  • Don’t use predictable passwords.  Choose a secure password using a combination of key words and numbers.
  • If you struggle to remember large numbers of passwords, use a password safe or password manager to store them securely online.
  • Turn off the auto-upload function on services such as Dropbox or Google Photos. These services automatically save a backup version of your documents.
  • Keep your antivirus software up to date. 

12 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste in Your Office

Plastic is a problem that we have all become increasingly aware of. Organisations like Greenpeace and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish, causing devastation to the  oceans and horrifying damage to wildlife We need to drastically reduce the amount of plastic that is being discarded each day. As we return to our offices, cutting down the plastic used there would be a great start. We’ve put together a list of ways to reduce plastic waste in your workplace.

Provide Unlimited Filtered Water

Single-use plastic water bottles are among the most common items we find washed up on beaches. Globally we use  a million plastic bottles a minute, which seems totally indefensible in countries where tap water is safe, clean and free.

Install a mains-fed filtered water cooler or put a water filter on the office kitchen tap. Filtered tap water tastes better and is healthier than bottled water. Encourage your colleagues to use reusable water bottles.

Encourage Staff to Bring Their Own Lunch

A lot of plastic waste comes from staff lunches Provide your staff with facilities to store and reheat food and encourage them to bring in their own lunch. This cuts out shop-bought sandwiches, ready-made meals and pasta dishes in single-use plastic packaging.

Reusables Items in Kitchens & Canteens

Provide reusable items in the kitchen and canteen areas and/or encourage colleagues to bring their own plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, lunchboxes, etc., as well as providing facilities for washing them after use. There is no excuse for disposable cutlery. A single plastic fork used for a couple of minutes will remain in the environment for many, many years to come.

Reduce Plastic in Tea & Coffee

Tea and coffee making produce an awful lot of plastic, but there are ways you can cut this down. Have milk delivered in reusable and returnable glass bottles. Use Find Me a Milkman for a local supplier.  Have sugar in paper packets or put into refillable tins, not in plastic pots.

Most tea bags have plastic in them. Use tea bag brands that avoid using plastic. As for coffee, use glass jars (just the lid is plastic) or tins of coffee.  Avoid machines that have single use pods. Have a cafetière available for staff. Of course, use reusable mugs and spoons.

Give Your Team Something Reusable

If you have budget, a great way to kick-start your plastic-free office environment is to give employees one reusable item, such as a water bottle, coffee cup or lunchbox. You can even brand these, if appropriate

Have Company Bags

Recent research has shown that reusable ‘bags-for-life’ are adding to the problem of single use plastics produced by supermarkets, as they are not being re-used. Make   canvas and biodegradable bags available in your office for your team to use, for lunches or trips to the shop. These can be Company printed to showcase your brand!

Recycle

This is obvious one and you are probably already doing it. Ensure that items are genuinely recyclable and are in the right bin. Here is a guide that shows you what can be recycled in the UK. Inform your team, clearly label recycling bins and minimise general waste bins. Use biodegradable bin bag options when possible.

Responsibly Source Your Office Supplies

Think carefully about office purchases, e.g. before buying toner, check if the supplier has a send back scheme for empties. It is even possible to request that suppliers use less plastic packaging by drafting a formal letter with guidelines of how you would prefer to receive your deliveries in future. Receiving less plastic will cut down on own your business waste costs. It may even cause a beneficial ‘ripple effect’ through the supply chain.

Promote an Anti-plastic Culture

Encourage good plastic habits amongst employees. Consider suitable incentives for team members who go out of their way to help reduce the plastic waste at the office. Encourage people to take practices home with them.

Organise an Outside Clean-up

Arrange a littler picking walk to help clear your local area of rubbish, or organise a park, river or beach clean with your team This could be worked into a team building activity where teams compete against each other to fill the most bags.

Share Successes and Inspire Others

Record improvements in the amount of recycling waste your organisation generates on a daily/weekly/monthly basis and report these back. Get the offices around your workplace involved by sharing useful articles, posts, tweets and blogs. Try to spread good practice and habits.

Ask Your Team for Ideas

The people with the best insights into how to cut plastic usage in are your team. They are the ones who know the biggest sources of plastic waste in your business. With a little prompting, they will come up with some brilliant ideas for doing things differently.

It’s important not to be disheartened. You will probably never eliminate all plastic from your office, but making consistent reductions in your plastic usage over time adds up to make a big difference.

Using less plastic in the workplace is not rocket science. It does require some time and investment and you will never achieve zero waste, because that would be virtually impossible. Cutting plastic use means recognising that we can’t go on treating an indestructible material as disposable waste. Once we do, we can come up with better ways of doing things, to protect our fragile environment.