Karl Elliott

Tech Talk for 28 Feb

TT-exchange and near-free software

Many large software providers donate licences for their software to charities. Which means that if you are a registered charity then you may be able to get hold of significant software at a cost of no more than an administration fee.

TT-exchange is the system/organisation/website that distributes this ‘donated’ software in the UK to charities. It used to be known at CTX and for many years VANEL and other local charities have been using the system to get some of our software and save a fortune in the process. (Over the past ten years the TT-exchange website calculates that VANEL has saved £79000 against the full-price costs of software we’ve ordered!)

TT-exchange doesn’t offer everything. There’s still lots of other free or cheap software out there and many online services offer free or discounted subscriptions to software anyway. But some software from the largest providers such as Microsoft normally has to be paid for at full cost. That’s where TT-exchange provides the service.

By way of example:

Microsoft Office Professional Pro normally costs £389 in the UK, but charities can get this for £35+VAT.
Norton anti-virus subscription for small businesses for 10 licences is just £13+VAT rather than £84.99 standard price.

So if the software you need is available you can potentially save significant money.

The process…

To be eligible you must be a Registered Charity. It’s the only way the software donors can verify your non-profit status in the UK. This does mean that social enterprises, CIOs and voluntary groups are not able to register with TT-exchange.

If you are eligible, you simply register with the system, confirm all your details and they will then get back to you once your status is confirmed and your account is ready. You will need to give some details – not just your charity registration number. Budgets for IT spend may be required and you often have to supply links to your website or send through notes and confirmation on headed paper to confirm you are who you claim.

Once registered you simply go shopping. Select the software products you need, add them to a basket, pay for them and wait.

There are limits to the number of licences and packages that you can actually put in your basket though. Some providers such as Microsoft allow you quite a lot of licences per package (I think it’s 50) and you can then only re-purchase extra licences annually. Some software comes in packs that you can only choose one of. For example, Norton anti-virus Small Business comes in packs of 1, 5 or 20 licences. You can’t order 26 licences by combining packages – you simply choose one package that suits your needs.

And for much of the software you might not get a CD delivered ready for installation. Increasingly software is ‘delivered’ by email. You get a link to download the software and an email of the licence strings you need to authorise the software. Microsoft software usually requires a visit to a Microsoft licencing site to get your authorisation and then you can begin to install your software.

So, if you are a registered charity, visit the TT-exchange website and browse the product catalogue.

If there’s something you like/need/want, then register with TT-exchange to setup your account and then get shopping.

#software, #techtalk, #ttexchange

Karl Elliott

Tech Talk for 15th Feb – No. 1

I’ve started off the new “Tech Talk” article series on the VANEL website. The idea of Tech Talk is to publish an article on an interesting tech topic each week. It will be on the blog generally on a Tuesday and in the Friday VANEL e-bulletin. Each Tech Talk will also appear here on VANEL Digital ready for an open, online discussion over the following week by WebClub members.

So, first article…
Original on VANEL blog here.

Keep your website updated – it’s essential

If your website is hosted online as part of the service you use to create it – WordPress.com, Wix, Squarespace or similar, then you’ll not need to read this article. Your website will always be kept up to date and secure automatically as part of the service you are receiving. Lucky you.

However, if, like many, your website is ‘self-hosted’, i.e. It resides in hosting that you pay for separately, then you need to be considering the issue of keeping it up to date.

If you’ve got a website generated via HTML or created offline through a tool such as DreamWeaver, then again your site will be fairly static and the issues of updates will affect you less.

But if you use WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or any of the other tools used to generate websites, then updates should be on your ‘to-do’ list.

WordPress (probably the most popular web platform for non-profits) made the BBC news this month due to a huge worldwide hack exploiting a security flaw. Major news and a major headache if it affects you. Forewarned is forearmed, and preventing security gaps is a lot easier up front than it is to try and recover your broken website after the attack. Keeping up to date is probably the simplest security measure you can take.

Updates mean keeping the core code – the version of WordPress up to date. It also means all those add-ons – themes, plugins and the like.

So why bother updating at all? Why not simply leave your site alone once it’s built until it’s time for a refresh.

Well you could. Everything will tick along nicely. In fact, if you run updates then you need to do it carefully – take a backup first, update, check nothing fails (plugins are notorious for changing functionality, working differently or even introducing bugs in their updates), and be prepared to ‘roll back’ should an update cause problems across a site. In fact, updating should be done carefully and with some preparation. Your site potentially is also often unavailable to visitors whilst updates take place, so bear that in mind.

But the consequences of not doing the updates is potentially worse. Security is the main consideration here. The longer code – such as a particular version of WordPress or of a theme or a plugin – is out in the open, the more likely it is that ‘attackers’ will learn ways to infiltrate the code and potentially damage your website. So keeping up to date will lessons the security risks to your site.

It was a subtle flaw in WordPress that caused the problems recently, but a new version of WordPress (v 4.7.2) was soon out to fix the problem. So if you update to that, your worries should be reduced. But don’t update and the security risks remain.

There are of course other reasons to upgrade too. Improvements and efficiencies. Increased speed, reduced memory use, usability improvements or completely new functions and functionality. Updating can generally keep your website future proofed.

There are some downsides. A WordPress core update might now be incompatible with an older plugin causing you a different headache. But in general updating is the way to go.

So is your website up to date? Do you even know? How often is is updated? Who does it for you? Are updates done in a controlled and tested manner (just in case things go wrong)?

Go take a look now and make sure you have a plan in place. Keep that site up to date.

VANEL can help you with updates and maintaining your site. We can do it all for you – backups, security checks, regular updates etc – via our WebClub Gold support package which works out at around £10 per month. Or if you’re doing it yourself and need advice, suggestions or simple troubleshooting, then basic WebClub membership (for £25 per year) is here to support you. Either way, any questions, get in touch with Karl at VANEL and we’ll keep you on the straight and narrow…