NACFB conference at the NEC

On 30th September, a team of us from AXLR8 went to our first trade show since lockdown. It was very professionally organised and run.

Great to meet up with so many clients and other potential technical and business collaborators.

The resilient commercial finance market is alive and kicking!

To learn more about how AXLR8 help your finance broker find more clients and process proposals quickly and easily, please contact us at 01344 776500 or send us an email.

Online AXLR8 refresher training

AXLR8 is just completing a very successful “Working Lunch with AXLR8” series of seminars in our Staffing Agency vertical market. The reason is that in most of those businesses staff may have changed. Staff turnover has been huge in so many industries over the last year and knowledge needs refreshing as we enter the “New Normal”. Also, many of the clients I speak to on a daily basis have been furloughed for long periods or have been performing other jobs.

Your organisation will also be considering staff knowledge retention and changes through this (hopefully) once in a century economic upheaval. Also, there is friction slowing the uptake of in-person training (expense, fear of infection, petrol shortages as I write, etc.)

Nevertheless, so many of the mainstream and offbeat metrics show that there is an uptick in all those business areas that indicate we are coming out of the downturn. Businesses that are barometers of the economy are on the up and up!

So AXLR8 will be running two more Working Lunch with AXLR8 series. One for Finance clients in October and one for Government in November. Please watch this space. We will also circulate invitations soon so we can win some space in your diary.

New Phone System

As part of our investment in customer service this year, we have revolutionised the telephone system. Having surveyed the market and seen many excellent new phone systems, we have gone with BT CloudWork. Our new numbers may come through as 0203 795 3629 or our direct dials depending upon who is calling.

You can still reach us on 01344 776500. However, we have dropped our old DDI numbers which were hardly used. They became a problem when people returned individual calls without going through the switchboard. If that person was away from their desk, the customer service was a VM or transfer.

Feedback

We would be grateful for your feedback if you have any trouble getting through to customer service. We do not want anyone in voicemail jail!

Future possibilities

The system from BT is based upon RingCentral which is up there in the (Nov 2020) Gartner Magic Quadrant with MS. Others trailing in that quadrant are Zoom, 8X8 and Cisco. So far we are pleased with the implementation and will be researching all the programmer interfaces for incoming caller identification to pop screens, etc. that we had developed over 15 years with our last (Splicecom) system which was well ahead of its time.

We are already dialling out direct from the AXLR8 Radical internal CRM system.

All calls will be recorded for training and quality purposes and the next development is to store them against the support ticket as we do with emails. That way all the information about a case is kept in the right “job bag”.

If you are planning phone integration with your AXLR8 system, please call us up. We heve been doing it for more than 20 years so you will be in safe hands.

Secure Passwords

Your passwords should be unique and memorable. If you do not read any more of this article, just remember to make your passwords from three random words.

Passwords should be…

  • long at least 10 characters
  • unique – do not use the same password for more than one purpose
  • memorable – if possible so you do not have it on a yellow sticky!
  • complex – add some numbers upper and lower case characters and some non-alphanumerics such as $, -,!,@ (special characters)
  • regularly changed
  • securely stored if stored at all. Possibly an encrypted file or a specialist recognised password vault
  • changed occasionally (changed too often can create its own security weaknesses). It is accepted that a more complex long password changed less frequently (say annually) is better than a simpler, shorter password changed frequently (e.g. every quarter).

Some of the above may conflict. The better (long, uncrackable, frequently changed, etc.) your password is, the more difficult it is to recall. Therefore, you need to record it and, unless this is done securely, that in itself becomes a security weakness. The familiar yellow sticky on the screen is dangerous but writing them all down on a piece of paper is asking for trouble.

Only secure systems should be trusted with your personal information:

  • encrypted password storage so not even the programmer of the system can read it.
  • SSL encrypted browser to server communications (padlock HTTPS:// in the URL) so that it is not compromised between your PC and the server
  • A ban on further attempts at password attempts after a small number of tries – five to ten attempts maximum.

Your information is probably already compromised

You must assume your password has already been found out and is available to many hackers. How?  Check this site to see where your details.

https://haveIbeenpwned.com

Put your email into the box and see the results showing how many sites, where you used that site, and what personal information has already been stolen and has been on sale for many months or years. Everyone should know this but we reckon nineteen out of twenty AXLR8 clients we show this to are completely unaware of how exposed they are.

Brute Force Dictionary Attack

Someone can easily guess my password?

There are hacking tools that attempt thousands of username and password combinations. Many of our servers that are open to the internet have 45,000 attempts per day which are blocked.

The way password guessing works is by using information already available to the hacker’s computer. Your name is an example so do not use your name with “123” after it. Further, your first & last name, school and many more pieces of personal information must be assumed to be known by hackers. If you have a word that is typically used in your password such as a pet name, animal, flower, place, or whatever, a “Dictionary” attack will probably find it by using a list of common words and configurations of those words. For example, Dictionary attacks are really good at words and phrases. They also check adding your date of birth and other information they have derived or purchased. Thus, if your password is made from the word Banana and your date of birth (in this example 10th November), you might make a password like “B4n4n4-1011” On the face of it, this is more than 8 characters and obeys many of the accepted rules from a few years ago.

Good dictionary attacks already have your date of birth, first pet’s name, primary school name, and many other answers to “hint” and “ID check” questions you might have entered in other sites as mentioned above.  Most know dates of birth and names of children, which are very common combinations for passwords. All know combinations of common passwords like “Secur1ty”, “pass1234”, “Password!” and “letmein” is well known. Similarly, although it is not the subject of this article, please do not keep your default firewall or blue tooth PIN as “1234” or “0000”. Also, obviously, do not make it the same as your bank PIN!

Yikes! What shall we do then?

Password reset

You should change your password now.

Dictionary attacks are very, very good at finding a word or phrase and number combination. However, they are unable to begin to guess at something you passed on the way to work, a randomly selected object in your house and a film you like or three things you saw on holiday or in a film plus your favourite actor.

Just choose three random words to make a memorable password and chuck  in some number(s)/non-alpha(s) characters.

e.g. apple sock ship might end up apple1812-$hipSocks.

Maximum password attempts is a good way to protect against such attacks.

In conclusion make sure your passwords obey the rules at the top of this page and, if you do nothing else, use three random words that only you would recall because only you saw a jaguar, a robin and a bike tyre puncture on your way to the shop this morning.

Repercussions

If it is your personal password for, say a private bank, game or subscription, you may lose money or pride. Worse is possible if someone steals your identity and commits criminal offences in your name. It is not enough to know you are not guilty. There are several cases where an innocent victim of such ID theft has been attacked by another victim of the crime. Lastly, if you are at work and responsible for other people’s data on a system and neglect your duty to create a secure password and keep it secret, you could damage many other people. This could happen if you are working on any accounts, CRM, HR system and many others.

Also, if you are an AXLR8 client running a business you have built up for years, you will need to make sure that you and your staff abide by these simple rules in a complex world.

If this raises any queries, please call AXLR8 support on 01344 776500 and we can help your Super Users with your system security and staff security training.

AXLR8 Support during Lockdown 2

We really apprciate your business and hope that our support is up to scratch. Some things may take a little longer. The reasons for this are:

  • the requests are new because your business has pivoted and we are having to work out how best to support your changed processes. For example, an event stewarding company now doing supermarket queuing, doormanagers to security, countercover to NHS work, and meny more.
  • We have a slightly smaller staff complement.
  • Some comunication is harder with the slight distancing of working at home and not seeing you in your offices.
  • Client staff turnover means we are training many new people who have not previously been so involved with the system. This has helped us identify many areas for video training and other e-learning tools which clients are trialling now.
  • Clients are asking us for more advanced help because their staff numbers have dropped. To survive, they must automate more. In many cases one or two people are left from a previous team of ten or twenty times that number.

For more information about our lockdown support service arrangements see this article.

Stay well and contact us if we can be of any assistance. Most importantly, please recommend AXLR8 if you know of people looking for systems.

AXLR8 Public Sector Code Library

For around five years we have asked government clients to share their code and some notes and tips every time they use AXLR8 APIs. There was a slow start but people are quite enthusiastic now.

AXLR8 are collating code samples so that public sector organisations do not have to reinvent the wheel every time a new organisation writes an interface to (e.g.) the PDL API. This should help codify a scheme that has been running for a while informally.

  • Would it be helpful to see examples of other people’s code as we collect permissions from similar public sector businesses using AXLR8 APIs?
  • Once finished, could we have a copy of your code for the AXLR8 Public Sector Code Library?
  1. Who will have access?
    Just the direct programmer at the public sector organisation concerned. Reciprocation of their finished code into the PSCL will be assumed/ agreed. Programmers working for subcontractors will be asked to place their code in public ownership as a condition of participation and their employer will be copied in. Most will agree it of little cost and great benefit to all. The relevant code will be kept in our support KB and has been provided by email up to now. In future, we expect to load it on a data asset register with public sector restricted access.
  2. Will it be a security breach?
    Even if you give us the raw code, we will remove the credentials and replace them with “———”, or similar.
    Even your organisation need not be identified if you wish to replace your organisation’s specific URLs with e.g. “Devshire.gov.uk”
  3. Who owns the IPR?
    I see it as Crown Copyright in 100% of cases. We have had the odd situation where a subcontractor has been less than forthcoming with the code interfacing between a public sector website and our systems and this has been one of the main motivators for this PSCL project. We have no real way to enforce this if the purchasing business do not make it a condition of the offer of work or agree perhaps a smaller fee and release the subcontractor from the obligation. However, I believe the results they achieve for such a “saving” will be more costly in the end and less maintainable.
  4. What else do we need?
    It would be helpful to others to say what CMS your system works with and provide any other notes. Perhaps some notes on what you might have done if you had more time?
  5. What if my code was not as clean as I would have liked due to the time I was given?
    Your code is brilliant. Do not worry, it will help someone and all devs know they have done the same somewhere.

Any questions or comments, please contact AXLR8 Support on 01344 776500.

AXLR8 UK Lockdown 2

Well, last day for us all in the office is Wednesday. On Thursday two or three people will be physically located at the office.

From Friday we’ll have just one or two people to handle the calls and everyone else will be working from home. We have the switcboard functionality to connect you to staff working at home. However, please take into account that such a connection uses two landlines as VoIP call quality is often not as good. Therefore, it quickly uses up our landlines. We need land line quality because so many people working at home are using mobiles with a wide range of cell signal quality.

Corona
AXLR8 phone system – simlar config to COVID-19

So, please email support@ unless you feel it warrants a call. We are always delighted to chat. However, remember, we have to authenticate you before we can give out any information about your company’s system. Therefore, please be prepared to provide a cell phone number on your company email to help us recognise your call and be prepared to share your screen. Please note, as ever, our support team may not change your user account permissions. Your internal senior Super User must grant and change any of your permissions.

Please try to return emails with the support ticket reference in the subject line as it speeds things up.

Thanks for your business. Keep well!

Clear new AXLR8 Portal interfaces

Clear new AXLR8 Portal interfaces

AXLR8 has been spending the last three years updating and improving the AXLR8 User Experience (UX). Many parts of the system are now being systematically added and seamlessly replacing exisiting client systems.

Staffing Agencies

Field staffing apps have been evolving for a while and are now customised to your company and also have all the functionality you would expect from AXLR8’s comprehensive staffing agency systems.

Applicants for different job postings
AXLR8 Application Tracking System: effective recruitment metrics

The staffing systems internal HQ Admin wokflows are being improved, functon by function, starting with the recruitment team using AXLR8 applicant tracking systems.

Dashboards

AXLR8 Dashboards are built internally at clients with knowledgeable accredited AXLR8 Super Users now. They can be built and placed any where in the system but the most popular place is the opening page with a management overview.

AXLR8 Dashboards
AXLR8 Dashboards give a real time overview of business health

Finance

AXLR8 are growing in the commercial finance and loan management systems markets as a direct result of improving user interfaces.

AXLR8 LoanMatrix
AXLR8 Loan Management Systems

Government

AXLR8 is updating the Information Request Management and Information Asset Register systems in use across central and local government and NHS.

AXLR8 IAR
Information Asset Register keeps data sources inventory maintained

Apps

AXLR8 have been delivering Apps on all major operating environments for seeral years for our clients to replace and complement our web apps and web portals.

App Screens
Simple to use fault reporting and service logging app

The above maintenance app is a simple “see snap send” reporting mechanism as well as containing all the information requied for service, installation and other equipment management tasks for an engineer.

The comprehensive AXLR8 Staffing App is simpl for the staff member to use for shift information, work planning availability calendar, pay, expenses, field reporting and surveys (on and off line) updating personal details, Chat mechanism, proof of attendance and so much more. It is used by tens of thousands of staff every day.

Staff App Screens
Staffing App with client customised content and functionality

Please email sales@axlr8.com or call us about your business systems requirement 01344 776500

AXLR8 working at home

We have moved most people out of the office to work at home and it all seems to be going very well.  Teamviewer, Skype, Join.me, Splicecomm telephone system, VPN, brilliant products, thanks. Google Hangouts, Zoom, there is something for everyone.

AXLR8 clients may completely drop their office and, subject to their security policies, many have found no change in working at home so long as they have a reasonable internet connection.

Conference calls and screenshares between someone’s conservatory and a desk in a spareroom across town and the client’s mobile in a different country operate like a dream. Always a pleasure to hear a dog barking in the background at someone’s house.

Payback for when weekends spent pottering about in the server room getting all the technology working and maintained every few months for years. Helped a client out with his VPN today so one of his people could work at home.

Look around your office and decide if it is really useful or just a vanity structure. Do you have a disconnect between what different people believe can be achieved at home in back and front office functions? It seems from this netimperative article many do. Extending our practical WoH practices this month because of Corona Virus has gone very well for AXLR8.

AXLR8 Corona Virus Resilience

In the last few weeks we have been reviewing plans for how AXLR8 deals with the evolving Corona virus threat to all our businesses. We have published information for different markets in which we operate, for example, AXLR8 staffing agency clients. Finance and public sector clients have very different challenges.

  • Isolation: AXLR8 Staff will be working at home a great deal over the next few weeks (March April subject to review).
  • Your Support Service:  we have a great team of client facing sales and support consultants who have the expertise to deal with any queries.  There may be absences (e.g. sickness or care of dependants).  However, our sophisticated internal systems mean they can work from anywhere.
  • Business meetings: kept to a minimum and mostly avoiding crowded transport.  There will be an increase in online screensharing which is mostly accepted by clients with the exception of parts of the public sector. 
  • Security of cashflow: AXLR8 will maintain a portfolio of markets rather than consolidate into a few because it is not yet clear if our survival and future cashflow requirements will be better met by, say, public sector or finance clients. 
  • Supply chain security: AXLR8 have a portfolio of data centre suppliers with a wide geographical and commercial spread.
  • External expert services are hugely valued and the loyalty is two way.  However, neither our business nor their services are irreplaceable.
  • Hiring has been temporarily frozen and budgets tightened “for a rainy day”.
  • Training courses have been cancelled for the next few months.
  • Key people: internal knowledge is shared and expertise overlaps.  However, there would be delayed developments in the event that a key person was absent for any reason.
    • holiday
    • illness
    • other
  • Development resources We ask clients and partners to understand that any developments – especially bespoke designs – will be a little slower than normal.  Software development normally follows the axiom: “More haste. Less speed”.   We will use the right programmers for each change and resulting version control and testing.  If experience is our guide, there are no short cuts. This is your mission critical software.  
  • Bug fixes should be attended to quickly and in the event of sever problems, as ever, other tasks are dropped to start disaster recovery immediately.
  • Financial stability Frankly, our balance sheet will be adversely affected this FY (to March 31st, 2020).  We have invested heavily in new functionality and the new look and feel of our systems.  That would have been fine but for some unexpected recent client liquidations in one of our markets.  However, AXLR8 has no debt except normal payroll and monthly service outgoings for our low overheads.  We are in a strong position to come out of this period stronger than competitors.   Many of those will be extending their funding lines and we believe that some of our rivals are already over-extended and will fail leaving the clients that rely upon their systems in a difficult position.
  • A watching brief is being kept on competitors of our clients entering liquidation to alert our clients so they can pick up the clients and, hopefully, the business from those clients.   The business health of our clients is always paramount for us but now is time where we need to add as much value as possible.

AXLR8 are a low risk, no debt company with a creative, hard-working team. (Boring is looking pretty cool right now).  Our main duty to our clients is to be reliable, stay in business and keep your SaaS systems and support services running.

Our experienced management team have been through some rocky seas in the past including deep recessions. AXLR8 are determined to come out of this stronger. We also expect this is not the last pandemic we see as our connected planet becomes a village.