Author Archives: Ben Cross

Ubiquity City Social – El Pecado

Last week, I attended the Ubiquity City Social networking event at El Pecado. Located and hidden away on Bold Street in the heart of Liverpool’s Ropewalks, this cosy little Spanish eatery provided an ideal backdrop, to a delightful evening of networking. It was a lovely event to attend, and I came away afterwards not only impressed with the networking, but also of the venue and its homely surroundings.

Arriving at the event early, I was greeted with friendly welcomes and smiles. This was followed by refreshments including tapas that was tasty enough, to satisfy the hungry and salivating appetites. Other refreshments included glasses of sangria and wine, which was certainly popular with several attendees.

The event featured an interesting mix of people. Naturally there were several familiar faces, including some I had not seen for a long while, and I was also delighted to meet some new faces too. These included Heather Anderson of The Hive Youth Zone, Russell Gannon of Baltic Triangle Area CIC and Jane Slinger-Brennan of Rutherford Diagnostics. It was interesting to listen to their stories about what they do, which not only gave me food for thought, but also some potential ideas for future blogging content (watch this space).

El Pecado was a homely yet atmospheric restaurant. This is because I noticed how the tables and chairs were neatly arranged closely to each other. I also noticed the low-hanging lights on the ceiling and the closeness of the kitchen, which gave a sense of intimacy. In my opinion, El Pecado has the feeling and touch of an old-fashioned family-run restaurant with a soul and sense of comfort, fitting in nicely within the unique community and vibrant surroundings of Bold Street.

My thanks go to Joel Jelen and everyone at Ubiquity PR for organising a fine networking event. I also would like to thank the staff of El Pecado for the tapas, the sangria and the other refreshments, which all helped to make for a lovely evening.

Thanks for reading!

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Professional Liverpool – Creative, Digital & Tech Sector Group Launch

The city of Liverpool has a vibrant and fast growing creative, digital and technology sector. Across the entire Liverpool City Region (LCR), there are many businesses who utilise technology to collaborate and work with partners and clients. However there needs to be a single unifying voice, to represent the interests of Liverpool’s creative, digital and tech community.

I was delighted to recently attend the launch of Professional Liverpool’s Creative, Digital and Tech Sector Group, at Roxy Ballroom in Liverpool. The purpose of this group is to provide a representative voice to the sector, and to raise awareness and promote it to the LCR and beyond.

Collaboration was the theme for this event, including the importance to businesses. This featured guest speakers who provided an overview of the group’s purpose and aims, along with why businesses need to collaborate. Led by Paul Furlong of Opus Media, who is the group’s chairman, the other speakers were Kelly Forshaw of Laduma, and Neil Atkinson of The Anfield Wrap, who gave some interesting examples of successful collaboration from their experiences in business.

The launch had a feel-good vibe to the atmosphere. With a warm, informal and quirky touch, there was plenty of networking, and collaboration with a packed-out audience feeling at ease, leading to hearty laughs and conversation. This was helped by the drinks, pizzas and chicken wings provided, along with the indoor golf, bowling alleys and table tennis.

I certainly hope the Creative, Digital and Tech Group is successful for Professional Liverpool and the region. Judging by the success of this event, I have great hopes for this group to encourage Liverpool’s creative, digital and technology community, and to collaborate successfully with other businesses and organisations. In these tough and digitally connected times, businesses and industry sectors can no longer afford to work within silos.

This means collaboration is the way forward for businesses and organisations, regardless of public, private or charitable sector position. This can only be achieved through open and honest communication, teamwork, and a willingness to listen and work together.

I was glad to have attended, as I am looking forward to learning more from future events. It was a pleasant evening and I would like to thank all the speakers, and everyone at Professional Liverpool and Roxy Ballroom, for coming together and successfully collaborating on a successful group launch.

My Blogging Journey – What Have I Learned after 100 Posts?

Hello reader!

Well goodness me, this is my 100th blog post!

Since I first started writing this blog back in September 2014, I honestly never thought that it would still be going. Looking back, what has enabled me to keep this going is a love of writing about my passions and interests, just like any other writer. My blogging journey has allowed me to express my love of writing and to learn about many topics and themes, whilst sharing my written thoughts with many other people.

When I mention my blog, I am often asked what I write about. My blog is not about one subject or theme, as it is about my personal and professional interests (strictly non-political) and positive experiences, that have motivated, educated, entertained, inspired or even moved me. You could compare my blog to a box of Quality Street, as there is something for everyone, or at least I hope that is the case.

Over the years my blog has evolved. From originally writing about networking, to technology, business, personal development, social media, data security, health and fitness, and even poetry and literature, my blog has become diverse in the sheer variety of topics that I have written about and published. I enjoy writing about different things, and I consider the diverse nature of my blog, to be an important part of its longevity, as well as the fact that I write from the heart too.

Over these last five years, I have learned so much on this journey that blogging has enriched my life and added to my skills, whilst giving me great joy. I have included some points below, to give you an understanding of what I have learned.

  1. Enjoy what you do.
  2. Quality is more important than quantity.
  3. Write for yourself and from the heart.
  4. Keep learning and never stop.
  5. Create and share content that resonates with people.
  6. Accuracy of research, language, spelling and grammar is important.
  7. Get straight to the point and keep jargon to a minimum.
  8. Keep away from politics if possible!
  9. Be yourself and let it shine through!

As individuals we continually learn and develop, as our personal and professional lives change. Through the events and seminars attended, the experiences I have encountered, the books read, the people I have met, the technologies and subjects I have learned, has continuously provided me with the creative fuel and enthusiasm for ideas, to create and publish my content. Therefore by continually keeping up-to-date with what is happening professionally, or just sharing my personal experiences and knowledge, I have become a more rounded individual.

Is there anything I could have done better? Having put so much effort into this blog, I feel whilst I have been extremely satisfied with my blogging journey and producing quality content, there are two key areas I can improve upon. These include sharing and commenting more on blogs written by others, as I believe it is important to help bloggers and other people. Secondly I must confess I have not promoted other articles written by others on my blog,whilst publishing my own. This has given me plenty to think about, and recognising these shortcomings will not only help me become a better blogger, but also to help more people.

Do I have any favourite posts that I have written? To be honest, this is a very tough one to list, as I have enjoyed writing each one and sharing them. However there are some I consider to be my best and memorable, of which I have listed below.

  1. The Benefits of Apprenticeships.
  2. Networking Lunch with Lawrence Kenwright.
  3. GDPR – Are you Ready?
  4. Windows 10 – What Businesses Need to Consider?
  5. Busting the Myths of Data Security.
  6. Networking Breakfast with Nicola Forshaw.
  7. Getting the Best Out of LinkedIn.
  8. Recollections of my 1stLiverpool Half-Marathon.
  9. Running the Scouse 5k for Charity.
  10. BIMA & Microsoft Roadshow in Liverpool.
  11. What Does it Take To Be Successful?
  12. What Have I Learned from Networking?

Writing this post and the previous ninety-nine has been a pleasure. I would like to thank everyone who has read, commented, shared, or even just had a quick look out of curiosity. I hope you have enjoyed and found my posts to be interesting, educational and at times entertaining. Therefore I am looking forward to writing and sharing more content with you in the future.

Thanks for reading, and here is to the next hundred and beyond!

Yours Sincerely

Ben Cross

Professional Liverpool – An Introduction to the Dark Web with Aabyss

The World Wide Web has transformed our world completely beyond recognition. From communicating via email, shopping and streaming videos, performing business transactions with clients online and more, the Internet and its associated technologies has given people and businesses so much to greatly benefit from.

There is also a disturbing side known as the Dark Web. This is the darker and mysterious side of the Internet, making it a dangerous and illegal haven for criminal activity, including hackers with the intent of causing cyber crimes, and even malicious attacks to businesses through viruses, trojans, ransomware and malware.

Attendess at this month’s Professional Liverpool Dark Web breakfast event at Avenue HQ.

Earlier this month, I attended a networking breakfast event organised by Professional Liverpool. Held at Avenue HQ in Liverpool and hosted by Aabyss Limited, the event featured a talk from Phil McGowan of Datto on what the Dark Web is, and of how it poses a threat to businesses. This also included a live demonstration of a simulated ransomware attack on a virtual system. Working in technology, I was intrigued by the topic as I found it to be mind-blowing, interesting, thought-provoking, and at times disturbing to learn about. I also sensed the other attendees felt similar too!

Phil gave a brief overview of the Dark Web, by describing how it can be used by hackers. Listening carefully, I gleamed several interesting facts about the Dark Web, of which I have included some below.

  1. With the Dark Web, this has seen the proliferation of ransomware.
  2. Over an estimated 6 million people use the Dark Web.
  3. As well as malware and ransomware, illicit services can be purchased for reasons of committing cyber and other crimes.
  4. No skills are required to be a hacker.
  5. Cyber attacks through malware and ransomware are rampant and is an increasing cause of downtime for businesses.
  6. £500 million in ransoms was paid by businesses affected by ransomware in 2018.
  7. Within the Dark Web, there are hacking companies who are getting more sophisticated with their techniques.
  8. In the UK, the average cost of downtime for businesses is £7000 per hour.
  9. Even though more data has moved to the cloud through SaaS (Software as a Service) it is still vulnerable.

From all the above, this paints a terrifying picture of the threats posed to businesses by ransomware. With personal and other sensitive data at risk from many security threats, this is also compounded by the fact that there are no simple solutions or silver bullets, that can easily address all these concerns. This means complex and detailed solutions are needed to minimise and manage risks effectively to maintain business continuity, and keeping services running through disruption. As I mentioned some time ago in a previous post, the responsibility for cyber and data security lies with everyone.

Overall, I was delighted and glad to have attended this event. This is because I appreciated Phil sharing his knowledge of cyber security, and of how ransomware and malware poses a real threat to businesses. With the proliferation of black-market services available on the Dark Web, I can honestly say what I learned was not only educational but has also reinforced my own beliefs, about why everyone must take cyber security seriously. I only hope the other attendees felt the same and to spread the message, as I heard one saying he was going to speak to his company’s IT department about the threat of ransomware.

I would like to thank several people for making this event possible. This includes Phil for giving a superb talk, Kelsey Lee Connors from Professional Liverpool and Andrew Allen, Greg Jones, Troy Midwood and Keith Smith from Aabyss, for putting together this successful and educational event. My thanks also go to Avenue HQ for providing the delicious breakfast of coffee, croissants, fruit and Danish pastries. On a final note, I am delighted that Phil’s talk and demonstration had a strong impact on everyone including myself. My only regret is the event and the topic deserved a bigger audience, but even still it was excellent and worth attending, and one that I have taken so much from.

Breakfast provided by Avenue HQ

LinkedOffline – A Networking Event with a Difference

It is good to attend a networking event and come away afterwards feeling that you have encountered something completely different. This is because some networking events are mostly similar in style and structure, meaning that you subconsciously expect the same every time.

Last month, I was delighted to attend the LinkedOffline networking event in the NYL Lounge in Liverpool’s Aloft Hotel. Having been involved with the LinkedIn and WhatsApp groups I was made to feel very welcome, which is why I decided to attend this event. I had also heard reasonably good vibes from the groups, and I was looking forward to attending.

Having arrived for the event at the Aloft, I was made to feel very welcome, meaning the positive vibes were justified. There was an interesting mix of people from different backgrounds, with shared stories, hearty good-natured laughs and also conversations on a wide variety of topics. A interesting little bonus was that I met up with some familiar faces, and I learned how to use the scan function within the LinkedIn app to connect with people.

The event began with an open-networking feel allowing everyone to informally meet, mingle and mix socially. Following this there was a welcome speech, which was followed by a group discussion, where everyone was broken into groups allowing for a brief discussion on what qualities made for good leadership. In addition these discussions enabled icebreaking to allow for everyone to introduce themselves, in a comfortable and relaxing environment, whilst also listening and learning from the stories of others. This made the event different from others I have previously attended, which was pleasant for me personally, as I came away with something new.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed the event and I recommend LinkedOffline to anyone in Liverpool. Set in a lovely and welcoming environment such as the Aloft, you can be sure to have a nice evening of networking.

I would like to thank Pam Case and Ian Denny the co-founders of LinkedOffline for organising a lovely event.

The Platform – Has Liverpool Got the Media it Needs?

There are so many media platforms in Liverpool today. From newspapers, online news and blog sites, the media representation of Liverpool has transformed beyond recognition.

At this month’s Platform event in Liverpool Science Park, I was delighted to attend and listen to an interesting debate, which looked at Liverpool’s media community. Led by representatives from the Liverpool Echo, BBC Radio Merseyside and Radio City Talk, this was a debate that was informative and engaging, with the panel and audience each having plenty to say. It was a lively discussion and at times very feisty!

Because media is a broad subject, this debate focused on how Liverpool is represented locally, where resources can be applied, the fairness of media coverage, and if any improvements can be made. The panel included Ryan McKernan from Agent Marketing, Paul O’Connor from Hit Search, Rosie Kenyon from Kenyons, Susan Lee from the Liverpool Echo, Pauline McAdam from BBC Radio Merseyside, Mick Coyle from Radio City Talk, and Liam Fogarty from the University of Central Lancashire.

I have learned plenty about the local media in Liverpool. For starters, print media is declining due to the fall in circulation, and fierce competition from online platforms. This means smaller print titles face a difficult and uncertain future, meaning some will cease to exist.

As a long-standing local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo continues to adapt and buck the trend for print media. This is through a combination of advertising revenue and their continued coverage of news representing all aspects of life in the city, including crime, politics and football. Indeed, I have learned the Echo recently saw a 60% surge in paper sales due to Liverpool’s recent dramatic Champions League semi-final victory over Barcelona, which shows how popular topics such as football helps to attract and grow audiences.

Advertising is also crucial for both traditional and digital media platforms. Whilst BBC Radio Merseyside is funded by the licence fee, others are reliant on revenue generated by advertising through audience growth, from the popularity of content created that connects and resonates with people. Therefore, to create and market content, it is important to know the target audience, and how to deliver and connect with them.

Despite the popularity of online platforms, I was also interested to learn that radio is still popular. Radio is a very simple concept that makes a connection with people and is also second to none when producing and delivering news, that relates to people in Liverpool. It also has the advantage of being continually able to rapidly adapt and produce content to fit the changing tone of these current times.

I also learned other interesting points related to Liverpool’s local media, which include the following.

  1. Engaging with people to get messages across.
  2. Need to be digitally literate and know how to use platforms properly.
  3. Plan what a campaign needs to do.
  4. Digital marketing is a very broad term.
  5. Know how to deliver content to a targeted audience.
  6. Content needs to tell stories that resonate with the audience.
  7. In negative stories, look for the positives.

Does Liverpool have the media it needs? Reflecting on what I have learned, I believe the media in Liverpool serves the city reasonably well. Platforms such as the Liverpool Echo, BBC Radio Merseyside and Radio City Talk produce content relevant to the city and its people, from local politics, public and mental health, environment, knife crime, government cuts, to other subjects such as football.

However, I also believe they can cover more stories related to the good things happening in Liverpool. These can include stories related to people, businesses, tourism and other topics. Indeed, there are several news websites such as Liverpool Business News, Good News Liverpool, My Planet Liverpool and The Guide Liverpool, which produce good quality content about positive things happening in the city.

I appreciate and respect that topics such as crime, local politics and football needs to be covered with limited media resources, as they are popular and helps sales. However, it is surely worth taking an occasional risk in covering other subjects, that may not get as much attention.

Is there any harm in trying?

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the panel members for their contribution to a lively debate, and to the members of the audience for their participation. My thanks also go to Liverpool Science Park for sponsoring the event. Finally, I would also like to thank Amanda Follit, Mick Ord, Garth Dallas and Steve Dickson, for organising a very thought-provoking discussion.

IX Liverpool – Who Are They?

Who are IX Liverpool and what do they do?

IX Liverpool (Liverpool Internet Exchange) is a collaborative and co-operative non-profit organisation, that provides a network for members to connect and share their Internet connections for the benefit of Liverpool businesses and organisations.

These members of IX Liverpool include Baltic Broadband, MICT Ltd, National Telecoms UK and Internet of Things Ltd. Each member provides essential services vital to IX Liverpool and local businesses from broadband, telephony, IT support, cloud, security, storage and other services. In addition, all members bring experience, knowledge, flexibility and reliability to the city.

For businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors, high speed Internet connections are required to connect with customers, partners and suppliers. As the business community of the Liverpool City Region (LCR) develops and interconnects with the UK economy and beyond, the demand placed on the city’s local Internet infrastructure increases.

Based in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, IX Liverpool helps to facilitate fast, reliable and open Internet connections to small business startups and larger organisations in the city region. This helps not only to support the local economy, but also provides a connectivity infrastructure supporting the city region by adding resilience, which reduces Liverpool’s dependency on other UK cities for sufficient Internet bandwidth.

As well as providing local Internet connections, there are other benefits that IX Liverpool brings to the city region.

These include the following below:

  1. Roll-out of free Wi-Fi connections across the streets of Liverpool, allowing local businesses to connect with visitors and residents.
  2. By attracting and connecting digital businesses, this helps to create highly-skilled jobs locally.
  3. As a non-profit organisation, IX Liverpool has an open joining policy. This means anyone can become a member of IX Liverpool in return for a yearly fee of £120, which funds the organisation to enable it to serve the city region.
  4. Faster and better connectivity will also enable better innovation in Liverpool’s renowned medical science and research facilities.
  5. Improved connections will also benefit Liverpool’s schools, colleges and universities.
  6. By providing a strong local Internet community, IX Liverpool helps to manage traffic locally, providing faster speeds, better reliability and is ultimately more cost effective.

IX Liverpool is growing beyond to serve the wider city region. Last December, it was announced that IX Liverpool and Baltic Broadband were working together to install a connection of 10Gbps to the North Liverpool areas of Everton and Vauxhall. This will benefit the regeneration of the city by providing quality Internet connectivity to the Ten Streets Project, supporting future businesses as well as local residents.

In summary, IX Liverpool plays an important and under appreciated role in supporting the regeneration of Liverpool and the surrounding region. As the local economic landscape changes, the importance of providing high-quality Internet connections cannot be underestimated, as fast speeds are paramount in supporting local businesses and residents. This is why IX Liverpool is crucial in helping the city in joining others such as London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Dublin, Prague and Warsaw in building a powerful local Internet community.