Record-breaking year at Perfect Image: we want you to be part of our future success

Here at Perfect Image, we’re delighted to tell you that we’re celebrating a record-breaking year after announcing our audited annual results.

From our home on the Cobalt Business Park in North Tyneside, we’ve seen turnover for our latest financial year reach £7.5 million, a 30% increase on the previous year. And as if that wasn’t cause enough for a celebration, we’ve also surpassed the targets set for this financial year by 8% – with our initial target for 2015/16 being £6.9 million.

Last year we had a really strong performance and good growth too. When we set the targets for this year, we felt they were ambitious, yet achievable with hard work and dedication, so we’re thrilled with our performance and to have exceeded our goals – it’s all down to a buoyant IT market and, of course, a great team too.

There is no doubt there is continued confidence growing in the IT market and as cloud computing becomes the ‘new normal’, we’re certainly seeing a tipping point in the sector. Our strategy of aligning ourselves to cloud computing back in the early days and providing a managed service around clients’ applications in a true cloud environment is paying dividends now. As new and existing clients want to harness the business benefits cloud computing can offer them, we are often their provider of choice, due to our track record and the close working relationships we enjoy with our two key cloud partners – Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.

Here at Perfect Image, we work collaboratively with our clients to foster business transformation through the intelligent use of IT. We design and support cloud, traditional and hybrid IT systems, providing an end-to-end service across business applications, infrastructure, networks and data analytics. So much so, while Perfect Image as a whole has surpassed the set annual turnover target, each individual department within the business has also out-performed their annual goals – we couldn’t be happier!

A huge contributing factor to the fantastic results of the past year is due to winning a number of new customers across the North East including Fairstone Group, Auckland Castle and Arcinova, helping to establish Perfect Image as a major IT player in the region. What’s more, we’re also gaining traction across the rest of the UK with a number of big wins with household names such as Halfords, Zurich Insurance and BGL – owners of ComparetheMarket.com.
And the good news doesn’t stop there; due to our exceptional company growth, we’re now recruiting across the business into a number of roles. If you want to work in a fast-paced, challenging but hugely rewarding environment with state-of-the-art technology by global providers of IT solutions, then we want to hear from you.

After all, the success of Perfect Image is down to our people. Without their skill, knowledge and expertise, we could never service our clients the way we do and, ultimately, it’s this that makes businesses want to work with us – we’re committed to our clients and work hard to design and deliver technology solutions that produce real business benefits for them that can help transform their organisation.

This time last year we had approximately 75 people working at Perfect Image. Now, when we fill our latest roles, our head count will grow to 99 people. It’s really a very exciting time with even more ambitious targets set for next year. We’re looking to achieve a further 20% growth in our turnover for 2016/17 and to do this we need the right people on-board. So if you’re up for the challenge, why not check out the roles available with us?

Avoid hefty fines as new data protection guidelines come in to force

With enhanced data protection rights set to come into force in 2018, Perfect Image and its compliance partner, Evolve North, will be reviewing the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and suggesting ways your organisation can remain compliant.

On 20 July Perfect Image will host a free-to-attend practical workshop, which will help you prepare your organisation for the upcoming changes in Data Protection. While the changes laid out by the GDPR do not come into force until 2018, it is essential for all organisations to put plans in place as soon as possible, to allow time for your organisation to ensure it is fully compliant, while avoiding hefty fines when the changes come in to force. Any organisation which fails to comply with the GDPR will be subject to either fines of around £60,000 or a percentage of their turnover for each breach.

While many of the main concepts and principles within the current Data Protection Act will remain valid under the GDPR, there are some significant changes, as well as several new elements, which organisations must prepare for. Under the new rulings, businesses will have to appoint a Data Protection Officer, undergo mandatory Privacy Impact Assessments and all software, systems and processes must be compliant with data protection.

At Perfect Image, we’re committed to best practise and wanted to share our knowledge on a subject which, if not handled correctly, could have a huge impact on your organisation. Despite having two years to ensure compliance measures are put in place, we want to help you make the transition as simple as possible.

Mark Dennis, managing director and information governance lead, at Evolve North will be talking about GDPR’s implications for organisations and individuals, as well as reviewing the Information Commissioners’ 12 Steps for compliance. Mick Keeble/Michael Steen, JOB TITLE, at Perfect Image will also discuss how organisations can plug the gaps in their data and security, to ensure that they remain compliant when the new guidelines come into force.

As all organisations must comply with the new GDPR, our workshop is open to any organisation which processes data, and will give attendees an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday 20 July at 9.30am at Perfect Image, Equinox House, 3.2 Silver Fox Way, Cobalt

Coming of age: cloud computing is the new normal

This time last year, when it came to cloud computing, we found a lot of our clients and potential customers were talking about ‘when’ the time was right for their organisation to make the move into the cloud. Fast-forward 365 days and the tone of the conversations have certainly changed.

Today, more and more people are realising the business benefits of hosting their organisation’s IT infrastructure in the cloud – particularly in a true cloud environment – with providers such as AWS. So rather than talking about ‘when’ the time is right to move into the cloud, our conversations with clients are now very much about ‘how’ is the best way to make the move.

What better testament to prove that in 2016, cloud computing is certainly coming of age and very quickly becoming the ‘new normal’ when architecting an IT infrastructure? In fact, recent statistics show that in 2015, AWS was top for cloud computing solutions and was even the best when it came to systems reliability.

The study was carried out by CloudHarmony, which is owned by Gartner, and aimed to monitor the health status of cloud computing providers by testing their systems over the course of a year. The results were impressive; despite AWS having the largest cloud offering on the market, it actually had the least amount of outages among other major vendors, like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

To put some figures against this, during the 365 days of monitoring last year, the study recorded 56 outages at AWS across four major services for a total downtime (and keep in mind this is over the course of a year and across all of their global data centres…) of about two and a half hours. In comparison, the other cloud computing platforms had more than five-fold downtime; Azure suffered 71 outages totalling 10 hours and 49 minutes, while Google’s cloud suffered 167 outages over the course of 11 hours and 34 minutes. In other words, that means that AWS was up and running 99.9974% of the time.

With over 10 million customers world-wide ranging in size, scale and sector, it’s clear that when asking yourself about ‘how’ to move into the cloud, AWS should be up there on your shortlist of preferred providers. Compared to other providers, it is clearly the most robust and reliable, meaning you can be sure your systems are running smoothly, so you can get on with the running of your business rather than dealing with systems outages.

Working with an IT consultancy, like Perfect Image, can help you to determine the best cloud solution for you and your organisation, and then help you to make the move, so you can realise the business benefits of true cloud as quickly and smoothly as possible. What’s more, at Perfect Image we offer our clients a full managed support service, so once your systems are safely in the cloud, we look after your infrastructure for you too – it’s one less thing for you to worry about while you’re busy running your business.

We monitor, measure and make recommendations for further improvements, so that you’re always getting the best return possible on the investment in your IT, ensuring your systems meet your evolving business needs.

Artificial Intelligence – no longer a thing of the future

Say the words ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and it all seems very X Files or Men in Black – certainly not something that is every day at least. But what if you were wrong? After all, Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that this year he wants re-create his very own Jarvis from Iron Man – he’s actually going to build his own robot assistant!

However, when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI) in IT, it is really very much a ‘thing’ and it can certainly help to benefit your business too, beyond being a virtual butler and making you a cup of tea…

There’s something called ‘Machine Learning’ that is part of the AI family. Essentially it means computers have the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed – no hours of coding required. Rather, machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data.

Unlike data mining, which searches through data and looking for patterns to present in a meaningful way to be understood by humans, machine learning uses data to improve the program’s own understanding and adjusting the program’s actions accordingly – it’s about patterns, probability and predictions based on what the program has learned through the inputting of historic data.
It means that through looking and learning from volumes of historic data, machine learning produces actionable results. It really is a very clever piece of kit for any business or organisation that needs to consider external factors affecting business decisions – anything from market challenges to customer behaviour.

For example, imagine you’re a business and you sell umbrellas. Through machine learning, by inputting the data from historical weather patterns for the past year, the results may show you that in 2015, December was the wettest month of the year and so may predict that the same will happen this year. However, by ‘feeding’ the programme more historic data going back many years, the results may show you that actually, December isn’t always the rainiest month of the year and that it tends to be more around April/May time instead. In essence, the more info you can give the programme, the more it learns and better predicts the most probable outcomes.

Thinking about the umbrella business, armed with this information, you can use the results from the machine learning exercise to inform your purchasing decisions. The system could, for example, learn what the typical linkage is between the actual weather, the forecast weather and how many people buy your umbrellas. If you know it’s less likely to rain in August, you don’t need to order in as many umbrellas. If you know it’s likely to be a very wet September, you can make sure you have enough stock to meet demand and set your price point accordingly. While some of the results (like this one!) may be intuitive and obvious, this isn’t always the case.

It’s all really impressive stuff and it’s a product offering Amazon Web Services is taking to market. And what’s great is it’s not really expensive either (certainly not as costly as Mr Zuckerberg’s bill for building his own Jarvis!). With Amazon Machine Learning there’s no upfront hardware or software investment, and you pay as you go, so you can start small and scale up if you need to. The predictions are presented in real-time too, so it helps when you have to make a quick business decision with little time to consider the options.

AI and machine learning may sound like the stuff of MI5 and the Secret Service, but the truth is most businesses, regardless of shape, size or sector could benefit from the insight it can offer. It’s an affordable and effective way to stay ahead of the competition and something you might like to consider as part of your IT and big data strategy sooner rather than later.

Does size matter?

Does size matter? It’s a question that many have pondered over the years and no doubt will continue for years to come. But in answer to the age old adage, when it comes to your IT, the answer is a resounding yes!

At Perfect Image we offer a true cloud computing solution through Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s something that our clients and potential clients frequently want to know more about. How does it work? Is it safe? Will it really benefit my business? The list goes on.

When we’re consulting with our customers about the best IT infrastructure for their business needs, we’re finding more and more that once we recommend AWS as a solution and people can see how it would be of benefit to their business, one of their main concerns is then measuring up. Let me explain…

AWS is a true cloud computing solution, meaning there’s no servers stashed away in the corner of your office and no off-site datacentres either. Because true cloud is quite an abstract idea, people often struggle with the concept. After all, how do you measure something that you can’t see? And if you can’t measure something so abstract, do you know where to begin when it comes to choosing the right ‘amount’ of cloud computing power?

Well, through Perfect Image, clients can have access to a new service that has the answers to all your questions around size and whether or not it matters – when we’re talking about your IT! It’s called Cloudamize and is a software tool that runs alongside your current IT infrastructure for one month. After the 30-day period, it then tells you how much computing power you need to invest in when migrating your systems over to AWS and how much it would cost to run on a monthly basis.

This in turn helps you to put a business case together, clearly highlighting the ROI of true cloud computing with AWS; if you’ve got too much tin in your existing servers, you need less. If your systems are stressed and at capacity, you need more. Just think, if the report showed that you needed more computing power, how much extra would it cost to buy in another server? Or, if the report showed that you’ve got too much computing power for your needs, think about how much money you’ve wasted in buying the bigger server. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could have measured this and told you in advance before making the purchase?

True cloud computing with AWS is totally Pay As You Go – you only pay for the computing power that you use – no wastage, no fuss. It means that you’re never going to be over paying for a piece of kit that’s totally redundant.

In addition, because AWS is so flexible, the amount of computing power you use can be quickly dialled up and just as easily dialled back down to help meet peaks in the demand of your IT infrastructure. Again, you’re only paying for what you use, so if you don’t need a little extra capacity it’s absolutely fine! If you do dial things up for a period of time, capacity levels will go back to normal as average levels resume, you’re only charged for what you’ve used, and in turn haven’t needed to buy in an extra server that is now sitting doing nothing in the corner of your office as the peak period is now over.

At Perfect Image, we’re expert at helping our clients to achieve real business benefits through the intelligent use of IT, and AWS along with Cloudamize are just a few of the tools we have in our kitbag.

Customer Conference – 27th November

27th Nov 2015

Time:

9am – 4pm BST

event-detail-banner

Overview

This year’s customer conference is focused on ‘Intelligent IT solutions’ that enhance business process, improve communications and ensure a secure and a compliant data environment. We will explore the “fears” around Cloud Computing, provide insight to Business analytics, cyber security and control through network access. Keynote speakers from PwC and Alteryx will provide real insight, whilst our technology workshops will showcase the latest technology in cloud, security and business analytics.

Agenda

Time  
9.00 – 9.30 Registration & Coffee
9.30 – 9.45 Introduction – Andrew Robson (CEO, Perfect Image)
9.45 – 10.30 The Cyber security risks that organisations face and key findings from PwC’s Global State of Information Security Survey 2016 – Asam Malik (Director, PwC)
10.30 – 10.45 Coffee break
10.45 – 11.30 ‘Intelligent Data’ – Alteryx provides intuitive workflow for data blending, predictive and spatial analytics – Stuart Wilson (VP for EMEA, Alteryx)
11.30 – 12.00 ‘Security Check’ – How secure is your business?
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch
12.15 – 12.45 ‘Big Data in Enterprise’ – Executive round table discussion (by invitation)
13.00 – 14.00 ‘Intelligent Working’ – Microsoft Dynamics CRM & Mobile
14.00 – 15.00 ‘Intelligent Infrastructure’ – Infrastructure platforms and security
15.00 – 15.15 Wrap up
15.15 – 16.00 Networking and drinks

Audience

The Perfect Image customer conference is open to all existing customers and any organisation that has an interest in understanding how the latest innovations in IT can help drive your business. We aim to cater for both business leaders and techies alike.

Book your place

Aligning IT to your business needs

Mark Jackson is Sales Manager at Perfect Image – a North East-based IT services consultancy. Here he talks about considerations when working with an IT provider to make sure their solutions are aligned to your business needs.

Making a purchasing decision on behalf of your business isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem. Think about it, there’s a huge difference between simply buying a commodity like pencils and pens, to buying in a service like your IT.

Unlike a commodity – where it’s a simple transaction of cash in exchange for raw goods – a service should be about using expertise to help another who doesn’t share that same level of understanding. At Perfect Image that’s what we do – our offering is totally service-led; we work with our customers to provide intelligent IT solutions, along with full technical support, that helps to bring about real business benefits.

We offer a wide range of products through our different partnerships. However, we don’t make assumptions and never push a particular vendor. Rather, we take a totally bespoke, consultative approach.
We take the time to get to know your business and your current IT systems. We work with you to determine what it is you want to get out of your IT systems and how in turn that will positively impact your business. Then, using our years of experience and all the different tools at our disposal, make a recommendation that is right for you – we make sure that your IT is aligned to your business.

So what can you do to make sure that your IT systems are aligned to your business? We’ve developed a list of hints and tips to help you on your way:

Make your priorities clear:
It’s easy for people to make assumptions (and you know what they say about those), so make your business goals and their proprieties clear from the outset. Tell your IT provider (or potential IT provider if you’re checking out the market) what it is you want to achieve as a business and by when. Armed with this information, your service provider can’t – or at least shouldn’t – make any assumptions and therefore their recommendations should be based on what is right for you and your business, not what think is going to be best.

Ask questions:
Because your IT provider should be giving you a service, not simply selling you a commodity, working together should be like a partnership. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – what can you expect from working together, what involvement or commitment will the IT provider need from you, what service levels can you expect in return? Understanding the answers to these questions upfront makes the delivery much smoother and therefore beneficial to your business.

Don’t take products pushed from your incumbent:
It’s easy to think that because you’ve been working with an IT provider for a while they must really understand the complexities of your company; therefore what they’re recommending must be best for your business. In some cases this is true, however, in other instances it becomes easy for IT providers to simply push products to their existing customer-base because a relationship already exists.
If your incumbent recommends a particular product, ask them why – remember my point about questioning. Your incumbent’s answer will determine if they really do understand what it is you want to achieve and whether or not their vision of your IT is really aligned to your business.

Remember service, not commodity.
It’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t buying pens and pencil here. After all, your IT systems are what underpin the whole of your business; you need the expertise of experienced professionals to help you achieve your business goals. If when speaking with an IT provider it seems as though the process is purely transactional, the chances are they haven’t understood your aims and objectives, so it’s highly unlikely that the IT solutions they’re suggesting will help you to move closer to your goal.

Proof of concepts:
Before signing on the dotted line, ask to see a proof of concept where possible. The purpose of this is to demonstrate how the proposed system will really work in your environment and with your data. It’s also an opportunity for you to make sure the IT provider has understood your brief, demonstrating a deep understanding your goals and making sure that your IT solutions are aligned to your business.

At Perfect Image we practice what we preach. We are the providers of our own IT solutions. When making updates, integrating new products or servicing the system, we keep close in mind what it is we want to achieve as a business – our systems are aligned to our goals and are helping us to bring real benefits to our own business by ensuring we deliver ever improving services to our clients.

Shared responsibility and security in the cloud

There’s a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to computing and you’ve probably heard about it before; it’s called ‘the cloud’. We’re starting to witness a tipping point in the market place where more and more companies are beginning to realise the business benefits to be had from this type of IT infrastructure.

For example, cloud computing through trusted providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), means you can use your IT as you would a utility. Think about it: you turn your heating up in the winter as you need it when the temperature begins to drop, and you turn it down during the summer months as the warmer weather sets in. Either way, you’re only charged for the energy you use, and it’s the same with cloud. It’s computing as a service, rather than a commodity, like investing in the bricks and mortar of a data centre.

The benefits of the cloud are clearly evident, it provides the opportunity to replace up-front capital infrastructure expenses with low variable costs that scale with your business, it’s highly reliable, it enables innovation and it’s open and flexible. So, although everybody sees these benefits, we know some people still have questions, and the number one question is always about security. There are still some people who feel an owned data centre is safer – being able to physically see the server, the wires and flashing lights reassures them that their IT systems are all present and correct and provides a sense of security.

In reality, cloud is extremely safe and secure – providing you take the necessary precautions that you would with any IT project. The AWS Cloud, for example, has been architected to be one of the most flexible and secure cloud computing environments available today. AWS has consistently achieved robust security standards such as ISO 27001, SOC 1, 2, 3 and PCI DSS Level 1. Most recently, the Article 29 Working Party, the group of EU data protection authorities, approved the Data Processing Agreement (DPA) that AWS offers its customers.

But, while cloud providers like AWS do their bit to keep your IT safe and secure, as with any IT system you also need to take your share of responsibility too. In fact, this is known as the ‘Shared Responsibility Model’. It means that while cloud providers such as AWS manage and control the components from the host operating system and virtualization layer down to the physical security of the facilities in which the services operate, the customers are responsible for building secure applications.

At Perfect Image, we offer an end-to-end cloud service so we will architect and manage your systems to ensure that you use the cloud in a safe and secure way. So while AWS experts look after the cloud, our experts will look after you and make sure that all of your systems are fully compliant, safe and secure so you can enjoy the business benefits of true cloud computing without worry.

Cloudability

There’s a term being bandied around the IT sector at the moment. You may have heard it before – ‘born in the cloud’ – but what does it actually mean?

Well, the phrase refers to IT companies and consultancies that have come into existence during the emergence of cloud computing. Many of these companies are young, inexperienced and have only ever known the era of the cloud.

At Perfect Image we’re different. We aren’t born in the cloud; rather, we’ve taken the decision to move into the true cloud computing arena because that’s what is right for our customers, so they can experience real business benefits through the intelligent use of IT.

We’re not wet behind the ears. Equally, we’re not over the hill. Our history makes us who we are today and our company is built on a rich heritage of deep rooted skills in infrastructure design and software development. And while we’re recruiting young talent from universities – and these people have indeed come into the industry in the era of the cloud – our workforce is trained by senior members of our team to develop the same deep rooted understanding of infrastructure design and software development that underpins all of our work.

So while Perfect Image is not born in the cloud, it means we are equipped with the power of what we call ‘cloudability’. This means we can design and build solutions to meet your business need harnessing our years of experience and expertise, while producing IT solutions that have real cloudability. These systems and software will run optimally in a true cloud environment, meaning our customers can enjoy the advantages of tailored or bespoke solutions, while reaping the benefits of a true cloud environment.

To highlight this point, we like to use a racing car analogy. Think about it, you wouldn’t commission a custom Ferrari (or any other sports car that might take your fancy) and then race it on the local go-karting track – you wouldn’t experience the full effect. In order to fully enjoy the experience of the Ferrari, you’d want to race it on a world-class track like Silverstone. The same can principle can be applied to system and software design and their cloudability factor: we build first class IT solutions – just like the racing car – and then run them in a market-leading true cloud environment powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), so that businesses can reap the benefits of a slick end-to-end IT solution.

So if you’re reviewing your IT systems, don’t just think about how they’ll work, think about how well they’ll run on different infrastructure platforms. In short, consider cloudability.

Thin Client Computing: Alternative ways to deliver IT applications

We’re all used to using the Windows environment in our businesses. One great benefit PCs bring is that users are able to customise how they use their applications, coupled with being able to change the way things look and feel and this has boosted productivity.

But sometimes this approach has problems; it’s quite difficult for an IT department to manage all these different devices, as well as deal with the security and compliance risks which the PC model brings with data potentially stored all over an organisation. It also struggles to accommodate smart phones and tablets, which employees are increasingly using today, as people want to get access to their applications wherever and whenever they can.

Thin Client Computing is an alternative way to deliver your applications to users and it addresses a number of these issues.

The basic principle of Thin Client Computing is very similar to the old fashioned mainframe; rather than running your applications locally on your PC, everything is stored and runs centrally on a set of servers. What this means is the PC simply acts as a display while transmitting the keyboard impressions and mouse movements back to the server.

So when you need to do an update to your systems or do some maintenance work, your IT department can do it in one central location on the servers, and therefore you don’t need to worry about updating each PC or device individually. It also means all your data is stored centrally so security compliance and backup is much better.

There are two basic approaches to Thin Client Computing; desktop virtualisation or application virtualisation. With desktop virtualisation we can manage your PC as though it runs locally, but take it to the server environment, and then deliver it up to whatever device you’re using. With application virtualisation we take each application individually, virtualise that onto the server and then we can create your own corporate application store where each user gets access to the applications they need, from whatever device they’re using. Doing this means all of your data is secure and your applications can be stored safely as well.

Not all of these approaches work for every organisation and the best approach to take depends on individual circumstances. At Perfect Image, we can give you a free consultation on how to make best use of these technologies and what approach, or perhaps a combined hybrid approach, might be right for you.

To find out more about Thin Client Computing, watch this short video: http://bit.ly/ThinClientComputing

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