After many years of successful cooperation between the two companies, Midland and North West-based www.epx.co.uk, which provides IT support for small to medium enterprises and public sector organisations, has announced the completion of its merger with IT Systems and Solutions (ITSS), which previously operated from Tittensor, North Staffordshire.
The combined operation will see increased benefits for all of their customers, including the advantage of a larger IT team and even faster response times. EPX is now looking to recruit two further IT technicians to add to its team and aid its ongoing plans for expansion.
Both firms have a proven track record in cutting-edge IT support. ITSS was formed in 2000, while EPX Ltd, which has its head office in Meols, Wirral, recently celebrated its tenth year of trading. The team of four from ITSS will now join the eleven staff who already work from EPX’s Stafford office.
Steve and Jill Seabridge-Chadwick, who founded ITSS, are especially pleased about the wider range of services EPX will now be able to offer. “We have always looked for ways to meet the rapidly evolving needs of our customers”, said Mrs Seabridge-Chadwick, “and marrying our overall expertise is a logical step that will bring considerable advantages.”
Steve Seabridge-Chadwick, a former BT communications engineer, told us, “One of our key focusses has always been high-end network management. That is just one aspect of our experience that will boost EPX’s existing offer, whereas EPX’s specialities, such as microwave internet connections to rural or otherwise inaccessible locations, will complement our range of services perfectly.”
EPX Ltd co-director Dan Ellis said, “With an even wider and deeper range of skills, by combining our strengths we are now better equipped than ever to meet the IT support needs of both small businesses and larger organisations.”
EPX co-director Dan Ellis, joining IT technicians Oli Ricketts and Jake Hancox, Steve Seabridge-Chadwick and Jill Seabridge-Chadwick, former directors of IT Systems and Solutions, Mark Pennington, EPX co-director.
Promising a host of new goodies, Microsoft’s Windows 10 set to be released on July 29th. A pop-up has already asked most Windows 7 and 8.1 users whether they want to upgrade to it for free. You and you colleagues may have been given the option to switch to this brand new operating system on your work PCs – pretty exciting stuff, eh?
Microsoft is keen to get as many recent Windows machines on the same operating system, as this will allow them to standardise the platform and sell more of the “universal apps” offered by the Windows Store. Plenty of Windows users will naturally be keen to try out the latest thing asap, especially if they feel unhappy with 8.1.
Anyone agreeing to the upgrade won’t notice their PC quietly download the new system in the background, getting everything ready so they can install it on the big day. But should you be among the daring pioneers taking the plunge on Wednesday 29th? Our answer is a very clear “No!”.
So, if not then, when?
While it is true that thousands of beta testers have been trying out Windows 10 for a good while now, there can be no guarantee whatsoever that if the release version were to be installed on your PC it would work as expected. There is no guarantee, for example, that a) all of the essential pieces of software you rely on to do business every single day will be compatible, b) the drivers for the network card in your machine will function, leaving you unable to access the Internet, or even c) that an installation error won’t leave your data corrupt (not that this would be an issue, as you have everything backed up, right?!).
“The free upgrade offer is available for twelve months, so there is no urgency” says EPX co-director Mark Pennington. “Our plan is to wait for three months before we start moving our customers’ PCs to Windows 10. That way, we can be as certain as possible there will be fixes available for any problems we encounter.”
All good things come to those who wait…
For over 50 years now, the independent charity Cerebral Palsy Mid Staffordshire has helped people with disabilities to lead full and rewarding lives. A key part of their activities is their Computer Centre, where computing courses are offered not only to their 240 members, but for anyone over the age of 19 years with a physical disability, such as those having suffered a stroke.
“People get a lot out of coming. As well as learning about computers, there’s the social side, where they make friends over tea and biscuits.” said Janice Brookes, a tutor at the Centre. “Demand is growing and ideally we’d like to put on more courses.”
In April the CPMS Computer Centre moved into a brand new space at the Northfield Centre, off Co-operative Street in Stafford. “We had understood that there would be Wifi within the building that we could use, but when we arrived it turned out that wasn’t the case.” Janice told us. “It was going to take weeks before BT could connect us and we have ten computers that are used for our courses every day of the week.”
The CPMS Computer Centre
Fortunately, help was on hand in the form of a rapidly deployable broadband solution from EPX. “It is a portable system that uses a combination of wireless technologies.” said Dan Ellis, co-director at EPX. “It takes minutes to set up and is a cost-effective solution for this kind of application.”
Uncertainty over funding has left a question mark over the Computer Centre’s future, explained Janice. “For the last ten years we have won bids with Staffordshire County Council to provide adult and community learning services. Unfortunately, our recent bid was unsuccessful.” The wireless broadband system from EPX is on a monthly rolling contract. CPMS is keen to keep the flexibility this offers, as opposed to taking out a full two-year contract a fixed line requires.
Cerebral Palsy Mid Staffordshire is a local charity and any help or donations to the charity would be most welcome. Please contact Mr Robert Tedstone (Chairman) on 01785 255526. Please read more about CPMS and its superb work here – http://www.cpmidstaffs.co.uk
Individual tutoring is available
With social media becoming such an everyday part of life, not having enough signal to be able to access the internet on your smartphone can be infuriating. However, audience members at this year’s Stafford Festival Shakespeare production of Much Ado About Nothing were able to tweet and post photos of them enjoying picnics in the summer heat to Facebook thanks to a free wireless internet service provided by EPX.
Sponsoring the free internet service during the show’s run for the second year, a cutting-edge microwave connection from EPX’s Stafford office, in the old Attic Bar at the Reynolds Centre, was able to provide a temporary, super high-speed broadband internet service for audiences, as well as the cast and crew, at the relatively remote location of Stafford Castle.
Daniel Ellis, co-Director of EPX, said, “We’re delighted to have supported Stafford Festival Shakespeare again. This really is the highlight of the area’s cultural calendar. It’s also very exciting to have offered everyone visiting the show the chance to share photos and publish their interval reviews nice and quickly.”
The full cast of Much Ado About Nothing
The show’s producer, Stafford Gatehouse’s Derrick Gask, said, “Anything that adds to making a visit to see one of our performances more special is a real bonus and the free WiFi certainly does that. It is so pleasing to have been able to read the kind comments and positive reviews audiences put on Twitter during the interval. That certainly wasn’t possible at our first production up here, some 25 years ago!”
Dan also revealed that he has a special connection with theatre. “I have taken part in amateur theatre productions by the Hillbark Players in the town of Frankby, on the Wirral, for the last twenty years. There’s nothing like the experience of live theatre and I am especially pleased to be involved with the fantastic Shakespeare productions in Stafford.”
Charlie Tighe as Conrade and Dan de Cruz as Borachio
On Thursday May 7th 2015, in order to register their opinion about who should be their Member of Parliament, some 30,691,680 people in the United Kingdom made a journey to their local polling station and voted in the General Election.
That means 30,691,680 marks were made next to names on 30,691,680 ballot papers, collected in the more than 40,000 polling stations that had to be hired for the day, to be counted by hand, by tens of thousands of paid staff, who often ended up working all through the night, in one of hundreds of huge halls that had to be rented for the occasion.
Figures for the 2015 election are not yet known, but, on 27th April 2011, speaking about the cost of the 2010 election, Cabinet Office minister Mark Harper told the commons: “We have estimated that the cost of the 2010 UK parliamentary election will be £113,255,271. This figure consists of £28,655,271 for the cost of distributing candidates’ mailings and a further £84.6 million for the conduct of the poll.”
£113m cost to the taxpayer, 30m journeys and lots of very late nights. This is 2015, isn’t it? Surely, there is a better, cheaper, more convenient option?! Of course there is, say increasingly numerous voices, including that of EPX co-Director Daniel Ellis, who see a bright future for electronic voting.
The two most common arguments against the introduction of electronic voting are that of technical security and social acceptance. Attitudes are changing faster than ever and the onward march of technology is clearly not only unstoppable, but also getting faster. It is still less than 8 years since Apple released the iPhone, but the cultural change that the technology has already caused is immense. Previously the stuff of sci-fi, Google already has driverless cars legally cruising the streets of California. And with huge support clearly present in parliament, next year it may become legal in the UK to create a baby using DNA from three different people. The times, as they say, really are a changing.
The security of online elections is quite rightly a very serious subject, but it has not stopped many leading companies to offer ‘military grade’ software technology for their conduct. Tellingly, almost all major political parties around the world already hold their internal elections via electronic ballot, reaping the benefits of cost savings and easier organisation, in particular.
But let’s not forget how much the general public has taken to online life. 84% of British households have Internet access, over half of all adults use online banking, with around three-quarters of us buying goods or services over the Internet. How much more proof does anyone need of our ease in using the Net?
Many youngsters, the very group who find access to technology more natural than any other, are the people least likely to turn out and vote. In 2001 MORI estimates that only 39% of 18 – 24 year olds voted, compared to 70% of those aged 65.
A recent report by campaign group WebRoots Democracy found that an online voting option could boost youth voter turnout in a General Election by up to 1.8 million, increasing turnout by around a quarter. Online voting would be expected to increase overall turnout by up to nine million, an increase of almost a third.
Let’s look at the figures again: £113,255,271 – £28,655,271 on printing and postage and £84.6 million for the poll. As anyone who understands the benefits IT has brought to the world of business over the last 40 years will tell you, it is considerably cheaper to send an email than it is to print off a letter, put it into an envelope and post it. Also, why hire staff to do work manually when it can be done at a fraction of the cost by digital means?
Electronic voting could save taxpayers a fortune every year. Isn’t it time that British democracy caught up with British business?