What’s the difference between a commercial and a domestic plumber?

Commercial Plumber Bristol

A plumber is a plumber, right? Not quite. There are domestic and commercial plumbers, offering different services to their customers. It’s important to recognise what you need when looking for a plumber to do the work you need completed.

Plumbers offer highly skilled services and both domestic and commercial plumbers can fit bathrooms, install central heating systems and much more.

The main difference between the two is scale. Commercial plumbers may often take larger jobs, particularly for hospitals, office buildings, apartment blocks, schools and so on. Larger buildings with more storeys invariably have more complex plumbing requirements and this is the key difference.

Analysis of plumbing undertaken in 2010 (http://www.yourspaceonline.net/pdf/Plumbing_-_Jun_2010.pdf) showed that there were 22,000 plumbing business in the UK employing 62,000 people. 90% of plumbing businesses employ fewer than ten people and so the majority of the companies are small.

If you own a home, you are probably most familiar with your local domestic plumber, whether that be in Clifton or Fishponds, who services the boiler, installs a central heating system, checks the safety of your gas, deals with a leak and is on hand when you want a new bathroom suite.

Often, we don’t appreciate the skill involved in plumbing. It’s a science, dealing with the safe installation and maintenance of gas and water supplies in your home, as well as completing aesthetic works involved in your dream bathroom or ensuring that the new state of the art gas oven and hob is safe to use in your kitchen.

As a commercial plumber in Bristol, we place a lot of importance on our Gas Safe recognition, ensuring that our teams can give you peace of mind that you and your family are safe.

Commercial plumbing is usually on a larger scale, and these are often the plumbing businesses that make up the 10% who employ more than ten people. However, commercial plumbers make up about 20% of the workforce.

If you are seeking a commercial plumber, you should look out for the Federation of Master Builders accreditation as well as Gas Safe. This is a mark that is important for the larger jobs that commercial plumbers tend to take on.

Commercial plumbers are most likely the people delivering the hygiene and safety in the schools your children go to or in the new developments going up in areas around Bristol. Apartments and shopping centres, for example, will have an intricate network of pipes carrying gas and water and will require experienced engineers to work with the architect, developer, electricians and others in order to deliver the modern conveniences we all expect, both in our homes and in the public spaces we use.

Regional research in 2010 showed that there were fewer than 6,500 plumbers in the south west of England. Considering the huge area, going out to Land’s End, and the large urban areas such as Bristol, Bath and Exeter, you can imagine how much demand is put on the profession, both domestically and commercially.

Commercial plumbing is more complex, due to scale of job, size of items installed and maintained, and the sheer number of various professionals involved in a large development programme. Clearly, your average domestic plumber, employing fewer than ten people, would struggle to deliver all the plumbing requirements for a new housing development of 1,000 homes or a block of 100+ flats. There are additional qualifications and training required for commercial plumbers and, while both domestic and commercial plumbers go through rigorous testing to ensure customer service and safety, a commercial plumber needs additional skills.

In summary, the main difference between commercial and domestic plumbers is the size of the job that they typically undertake. A commercial plumber can equally deal with domestic jobs but if you are an office or facilities manager, you probably need the specific expertise of a commercial plumbing company.

Everything you need to know about commercial vehicle tracking systems

Commercial Vehicle Tracking Systems

Long gone are the days when companies would need to hire a manager to sit in the passenger seat to monitor the performance of the driver and vehicle. It can now all be done virtually by one software operator who can overlook a number of drivers and their vehicles at the same time using GPS tracking software.

Here is everything you need to know about commercial vehicle tracking systems and how they could help your business:

How does a vehicle tracking system work?

Vehicle tracking systems are not too dissimilar to the GPS systems that most drivers use on devices such as smartphones and sat navs, but it comes with a lot more benefits and ways to analyse performance. It uses global positioning systems (GPS) via satellites, which then send real-time updates and data to the software operator.

A piece of hardware is installed in the vehicle and the data is then beamed back to the manager, who may be assigning jobs or monitoring the performance of a driver.

Is it legal to track commercial vehicles?

Yes. It is perfectly legal in the UK to track your company’s vehicles. The ability to track mileage and other key data has proven invaluable to companies worldwide for insurance purposes and performance analysis.

It is also legal to track vehicles owned by employees and not by the company, providing the tracking stops at the end of the employee’s shift. It can be agreed with the driver that data will not be collected outside of working hours, or the driver can turn choose to turn off data transmission using a privacy button.

However, it is illegal under the Data Protection Act to track a vehicle without the knowledge of the employee.

If you wish to fit coverts tracker on your commercial vehicles to help in the event of theft, you are also obliged by law to inform the employee of the tracker and the data you will be receiving from it.

What kind of data you can receive

As well as the regular features that come with regular GPS systems, fleet management and vehicle tracking systems such as TomTom Webfleet are able to locate vehicles and give directions to the destination that may have been assigned to the driver of the vehicle.

Additionally, a lot more complex data is also detected, such as the speed of the car, driving patterns and the software operator will be alerted when the driver performs an illegal or aggressive manoeuvre, such as speeding or hard braking. This is ideal for monitoring the wellbeing and behaviour of the driver.

A lot of taxi companies opt for the software because most of the systems come with dispatching tools, which have been proven to dramatically improve workflow. The software allows companies to be able to give customers a more accurate ETA and accurate updates if the driver has encountered a problem or is running late.

Accident tracking, roadside assistance and anti-theft features are also vital tools that allow companies to act quickly and effectively if the data is showing that the driver may have been involved in an accident.

Things you should consider before choosing a vendor

Vehicle tracking systems are a big commitment for any company and it’s important to choose the ideal vendor so that your business benefits from the technology.

There are a lot of providers offering systems that are unnecessarily complicated. Always be on the lookout for a solution that has a simple dashboard and doesn’t require much learning to use. Make sure you try the software before you buy.

It’s also important to get the most out of the technology. Some vendors offer alert systems that will send texts and emails when something isn’t right with the vehicle or driver.

Before buying, also ask the vendor to prove that the GPS signal will be reliable and will not drop when the driver is driving through tunnels or has to leave the city.

Third-party integration is also highly desired because it means you can sync all of the data with your accounting and payroll.

Finally, should you ever encounter any problems with the software and require assistance, it can save a lot of time and troubleshooting by selecting a vendor that offers real, live person anytime help!

Xero: Accounting software for small businesses

Accounting software for small businesses

If you’re a small business owner, you’ll know that accounting can be time-consuming, expensive, and complicated, especially if you use one of the larger accounting software packages on the market. It takes valuable resources away from your business and is a hindrance to the growth of your business. If that’s you, Xero might be just what you need to free up your time and take your business to the next level.

Xero is easy to understand, it’s quick and it’s affordable. With Xero, your books can always be up to date and you’ll be able to take a snapshot of your financial affairs anytime you want – even from your mobile device – equipping you to make strategic business decisions on the go.

XeroWhat is Xero?

Xero is one of the fastest growing cloud accounting programs in the world with more than 700,000 subscribers in more than 180 countries. In 2014 and 2015, Forbes ranked Xero number one for the World’s Most Innovative Growth Companies.

Xero can be integrated with other programs, such as point-of-sale and payroll software. With over 500 add-on solutions, you’ll be able to do just about anything in Xero.

Xero is a cloud-based online program, which means that you can access your books from anywhere, on any device. You don’t need to make any backups, and more than one person can work on the books at the same time. You can also give your accountant access to help you with those tricky transactions you don’t know how to handle. For some programs, being in the cloud means that it is slow and not always available. Not with Xero. It’s quick and has a 99.97% uptime rate – by far the best in its class.

How can businesses benefit from using Xero

Working with Xero has many benefits. We can’t list them all here, but here are some of the advantages we think you’d like to know about:

  • You have real-time visibility of your financial position, enabling you to make business decisions on the go.
  • A specialist Xero accountant can access your books anytime from anywhere, and add value as and when you need it.
  • Xero is easy, quick, and it doesn’t break the bank.
  • You can import feeds directly from your bank, so you don’t need to input each transaction manually.
  • Xero supports foreign exchange transactions and it converts a foreign currency into your home currency automatically, so accounting for transactions across borders becomes a breeze.
  • Payments can be linked to invoices, so your customers can pay you with a click of a button.
  • You can attach documents to your invoices or bills – just scan or take a photo of your receipts or any supporting docs you want to keep safe.
  • Bank reconciliations are easy and quick. Bank transactions are fed directly from your bank; all you need to do is match payments and receipts with transactions. It even remembers how you treated similar transactions before.
  • You can customise your reports in a way that’s understandable to you so you can see exactly what you need to know to make business decisions.
  • Xero’s mobile app can be used on any mobile device. You can send invoices, record receipts and expenses and do reconciliations while you’re in the field, waiting for a train or in those five minutes before your dinner date shows up.
  • Managing your contacts is a breeze. You can have all your contacts in one place, make notes, view work history, import emails and even see their location on Google Maps.

Who uses Xero?

Anybody who wants more time running their business, doing the things they really love while still having time for family and friends, uses Xero. It’s perfect for almost any kind of small business, whether you’re a start-up, retailer, creative agency, service provider or a non-profit organisation.

Xero takes the pain out of accounting and frees you up to grow your business. You’ll always know where you stand. Are you meeting your targets, making a profit or having the funds to buy new equipment? With Xero, all these questions can be answered effortlessly and you’ll be able to plan and make decisions swiftly and efficiently.

How to comply with global data breach notification laws

Legislation to protect consumer data exists across the world. The requirements of the law vary between countries and regions, but there’s a broad set of standard ground rules with which businesses need to comply. Thanks to IT support company Evolvit for their help in the creation of this article.

Pivotal to the rules is the action that organisations must take if a data breach has occurred. The aim is to notify everyone affected by the breach, so that the risks associated with the leaking of personal data can be reduced. The global data breach notifications also force organisations to take responsibility for any problems caused by an incident, rather than trying to cover it up.

Data breach

data (scrabble) by justgrimes licensed under Creative commons 5

Following the correct procedures

While the majority of businesses protect themselves against data breaches, cybercrime and hacking, it’s almost impossible to protect against all attacks, as hackers are using increasingly sophisticated techniques. The importance of knowing what to do if a breach occurs is crucial to limiting any damage.

The legislation recognises that any delay in notifying those affected can have serious consequences. Knowing the correct action to take by understanding the global minimum standards for breach notifications ensures that organisations don’t fall foul of the law, leaving customers further at risk.

Data breach notification requirements

When personal and financial data are leaked into the public domain, the concept of data breach notification is often not well defined. It was the state of California in the USA that first passed legislation relating to data breaches in 2002. Subsequently, various countries have implemented similar legislation.

However, none of it is particularly clear cut and businesses must take the time to ensure they fully understand all the requirements. In the EU and the UK, for example, there are different rules. The EU is governed by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive 2003, a law that requires organisations to notify all individuals affected in the event of a data breach, in addition to notifying a national authority, when the breach affects personal data and privacy.

There isn’t a general requirement in place in the UK, under the Data Protection Act 1998, to notify affected individuals or the Information Commissioner’s Office in the event of a data breach. However, if there’s a serious breach, the ICO recommends that they should be notified, with the main consideration being to combat any harm to individuals.

New regulations planned for 2017

The EU General Data Protection Regulation is due to be introduced in 2017 and will apply to any personal data that’s being used by businesses within the European Union. Under the new laws, any company suffering a data breach must notify the authorities within a reasonable time and must notify every individual who may be affected.

In other European countries, the situation may become confusing because of their own individual laws. For example, the German Data Protection Act requires both the regulator and any affected individuals to be informed, but not in every case. The requirement to notify the relevant bodies and individuals depends on the kind of data and the seriousness of the breach.

In the USA, there isn’t a federal standard law. Instead, each state has its own individual variation of California’s data breach notification laws.

Ensuring compliance everywhere

It’s apparent that there’s a wide variety of standards across the globe when it comes to data breach notification laws. In general terms, any organisation’s policy should be to focus on protecting everyone who will be affected in the event of a breach, telling all concerned as quickly as possible.

There are challenges to putting this standard in place, however. One of the major ones is ascertaining what’s been leaked and how major the risks are. For example, should a mobile device be lost, has it been misplaced or stolen? How easy is it to access any data on the device, thus compromising security?

In some jurisdictions across the globe, the authorities would be highly critical of any company that couldn’t confirm how serious the breach was.

Notifying the relevant parties

Notifying the affected individuals and the relevant authorities is a challenge in itself, especially since this must be completed within a specific timeline. Often, it can be difficult to ascertain exactly when the breach occurred.

If a mobile device has been lost and the data has been breached on a Friday evening, for example, there’s a chance the employee may not realise this until Monday morning and won’t inform IT until after the weekend. This would mean more than 48 hours had passed between the device being lost or stolen – potentially compromising data – and the breach being reported to IT.

As the EU requires that notifications of a breach must be made “without undue delay”, then the ICO may be concerned that a delay of over 48 hours is negligent and may potentially cause serious harm to those affected by the breach.

The key is knowledge and technology

In order to comply with all global data breach notification legislation, businesses must be able to say accurately whether a breach has occurred, specifying what information has been exposed in the public domain. It’s also necessary to know how many people are affected by the breach.

This can be completed effectively by using technology that tracks lost or stolen devices, encrypts device data, confirms whether someone has accessed the data and wipes the device if it can’t be retrieved. Organisations must take the necessary steps to ensure they comply with global data breach notification laws, demonstrating to their specific regulator that they’re in control of any breach situation.