Frequently Asked Questions
SkillGuard is hosted on Microsoft Azure. It is run on a responsive, tiered platform, enabling us to utilise the scalability, performance and resilience benefits offered by the MS Azure cloud. This includes both the capability to be scaled horizontally and vertically to meet the demands of very large numbers of concurrent users and high volumes of transactions, with rapid escalation when demand/ usage peaks.
For our UK clients, all MS Azure physical data centres used to process and store SkillGuard data are located within the British Isles.
SkillGuard is not sold or priced on the number of users. SkillGuard is sold as a corporate, enterprise solution to cover mobile workforces in full – or for long term, major infrastructure projects. The pricing model does not make it suitable for smaller scale implementations (such as one project or site).
SkillGuard pricing can either be quoted as a single yearly fee or confirmed on a price / worker / year. The ability to onward charge all or part of the cost of implementation to the supply chain makes the solution highly cost-effective for clients. We are happy to provide indicative pricing following discussions with potential customers as to their requirement.
The standard SkillGuard system is powerful, comprehensive and has a wide range of configuration settings and features and, as such, most of our clients implement the off-the-shelf solution.
Customisation is, however, available for major clients with long-term contracts.
SkillGuard is predominantly a cloud-based solution and all features can be accessed from any device that has internet connectivity and a current version of a mainstream web-browser – such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge or Safari on an Apple device. In addition, there are dedicated card checking apps for iOS and Android mobile devices and Windows PC’s.
SkillGuard exposes a secure API that allows a range of record creation and update functions to be performed - e.g. adding individuals or awarding competencies (i.e. transferred from a third-party system). The API also enables data to be passed from SkillGuard back out to these third-party systems. Industry best practice has been followed in the API's development making it secure, powerful and easy to use.
Yes, this is possible. Depending on what is required, we can either perform one-off initial seeding or clients can use our API to transfer data (both to and from SkillGuard).
This is unlikely. Usually, clients implement SkillGuard using PCs connected to the internet for their office-based system administrators, whilst site users use SkillGuard apps on mobile phones, tablets or desktop PCs depending on the set-up on site. There is no reason why site-based card checkers cannot use their own mobile devices, whilst other companies already provide phones or tablets for their supervisors – in which case they case these can be used.
SkillGuard is an extensive and mature system. However, as a company, we regularly review our system functionality against new developments in technology and changes in the market. Therefore, we do provide upgrades from time to time but not to a specific schedule. We support and manage our clients through any upgrade activities and ensure we communicate what is changing well in advance.
In our experience training falls into two categories.
Training for system administrators (such as those working for employers or sponsors). This is delivered online and we run regular sessions for new admin users.
Additionally, we also provide comms guidance and support for roll-out at site level, so that card checkers understand what they need to do. This is not training per se – rather it is communicating what the system does and what card checkers need to do in order to make best use of the system.
From a hosting perspective, SkillGuard is monitored 24/7 to ensure it is always available for our users. This is included within our annual charges.
Additionally, there is a full range of user support options are available. We are happy to discuss these with potential clients to understand what their requirement is and will then confirm the cost for providing these services.
Each SkillGuard implementation fully utilises the high resilience and high availability capabilities of the MS Azure cloud platform to ensure excellent service performance 24x7x365 with 99.9% uptime. In addition, we agree other configuration items within SLAs for each implementation to align with the scale and usage profiles to match every client’s needs.
With SkillGuard, there are two types of high security smartcards available (and whether only one or both types are used is the individual client’s decision).
There is a physical smartcard that can be checked by approved users and card checkers. It has a high security contactless chip and uses Near Field Communications (NFC). There is also a QR code that can be scanned to check the active worker record on the database when comms are available.
There is a virtual smartcard, which is held in our secure wallet (Vircarda). This can be stored on a worker’s own mobile phone and can be checked (just like a physical smartcard) on site by a card checker using the SkillGuard app.
Physical smartcards can be updated when synched with the database using NFC. Equally, when comms are available the QR code on the card can be read, which accesses the cardholder’s active online record. Virtual cards receive updates automatically and are always up to date.
Yes. If your employer has a BYOD policy the SkillGuard app can be installed on your Android or iPhone.
Equally our web card reader approach will work with a wide range of tablets.
Yes. In the UK, many of our cardholders have cards from entirely different industry programmes, such as CSCS and Partners. Using our own software to poll the CSCS management service in real-time, we enable CSCS (and Partner) cards to be checked and then logged on SkillGuard, as well as the competencies copied across into the worker’s main SkillGuard profile automatically. Multiple cards can be stored and updated on a SkillGuard worker record, as well as the cards’ images stored in a dedicated area of the worker record.
Cards are checked by card checkers on sites or projects.
When an operative presents their card, the card checker will use either the SkillGuard app, the SkillGuard web card reader or a PC-connected card reader to check the card.
The card provides up-to-date information about the cardholder’s authority to work – current competencies, any recent hours worked and any work restrictions which affect what the individual is able to do on site.
The card does NOT hold - or display – data such as the cardholder’s date of birth, NII number, or home address.
This depends on the card checking approach taken and which device is being used. The physical cards can be checked offline if being read using the SkillGuard Android mobile app (with NFC). Additionally, our apps cache recent card check data so, even if not using NFC, the app can bring forward data about recently checked cards even if comms are no longer available (this applies to physical and virtual smartcard). This enables us to provide a flexible range of approaches and offer the best possible solutions when on and offline.
Individual cardholders on the database who have been flagged as having Card Checking status can check cards. These will usually be site supervisors, site or project managers.
Every card check performed is logged and can be audited on the main SkillGuard system. It is NOT possible for cardholders without card checking status to check other people’s cards.
Data security is considered a top priority in every aspect of our business. This includes our enterprise scale, cloud-based solutions such as SkillGuard and our own internal systems and day-to-day operational procedures that our staff follow when processing client data.
The SkillGuard application was designed and continues to be developed with data security as a top priority. This is embedded in every application design decision from building, testing and deployment of the SkillGuard solution and Mobile Apps through to implementation. We also ensure strictly secure procedures are followed at all times by our staff during all post-implementation service delivery operations.
The measures and controls we have applied include regular external penetration testing by outsourced security specialists, along with regular internal security reviews and audits of the multiple layers of logical and physical security controls which have been implemented to keep client data in SkillGuard secure in line with industry best practice and in accordance with our ISO27001:2013 and Cyber-Essentials accreditations.
Physical smartcards utilise the latest SmartMX microprocessor-based cryptographic technology and use highly secure industry standard AES 256-bit encryption protocols. The smartcard microprocessors where the data is stored have been certified as meeting very stringent EAL5 international security standards. These provide highly secure authentication and data encryption which is used at all times by SkillGuard – when the card is checked, read, written to (data at rest) and when being transferred to/ from the cards using NFC (data-in-transit).
Virtual cards are held in secure storage in the Vircarda App on the cardholder’s mobile phone. All cardholder data stored in Vircarda (data-at-rest) is fully encrypted using modern AES 256-bit cryptography with keys unique to each device, which are stored in the phone’s secure key-chain store. All data sent to and from the virtual card (data-in-transit) is transferred over highly secure TLS 1.2 encrypted Vircarda infrastructure and communications channels. The QR codes generated by Vircarda are fully encrypted, high density and have a very short life – after which the QR codes expire and can no longer be used to access the cardholder’s data. This ensures the card-holder authorised the Vircarda app to share the virtual card’s QR code with an authorised SkillGuard card-checker.