Thursday, 23 March 2017

An Introduction to Conatiners and Docker: Switch to Windows Containers

This is Chris Gibson's second post. This post follows on from his first post called: An Introduction to Containers and Docker. You can read all about Chris on our About Us Page


So far you have a fresh install of Docker for Windows, which is cool.  However, by default Docker installs a Linux VM to run your containers.  You want to run Windows containers so need to change this.  Luckily Docker makes this easy, but with one potential gotcha.

Locate the Docker icon in the system tray and right click - you will see an option in the menu labelled “Switch to Windows Containers...”

Once you click this, Docker will start the switching process and you will see a “Docker is switching…” message pop up.

After a few moments, Docker will prompt you to enable the Windows Container feature.  Click ok, wait for the install and automated reboot.

When you next log in, Docker will start as normal and you should be all ready to start playing with Windows Containers right? Nope. If you open a PowerShell prompt as Administrator and run the Docker Version command again, you will see that the server “OS/Arch” is still set to “linux/amd64”.  This happens because Docker needs the Container feature installed before it can switch to it.

If you go back to the Docker menu, it will still show the message “Switch to Windows Containers…”.  

Follow the process again and after a while you should get the “Docker is running” pop-up.  To make sure it has switched you can check the Docker Menu - it should look like this:

You can also run the Docker Version command and see the Server “OS/Arch” value, which now shows “windows/amd64”

Now you’re ready to run Windows Containers, which we look at in the next post.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dividend Tax Changes and Brexit – Damaging to UK IT company creation

In my previous post titled UK Budget 2017 –The Death Knell for Small Business? We scratched the surface in discussing how economic decisions made during political events like the budget, can impact on business creation and people’s wiliness to follow their ideas and dreams and start their own business. 2016 was a pretty big year from an IT contractor/Consultant perspective. New dividend tax and Brexit were amongst the political changes that appear to have impacted on the IT Contracting and Consultancy industries.

We saw in my previous post that the number of IT companies created that classified themselves as IT Companies had fallen with just over 15000 companies created, compared with 25000 plus in 2015 and over 21000 in 2014. That is quite a drop.

In this post I intend to drill into these figures a little more, to see how the dates of the political events occurring can impact on company creation.  We’ll focus on the last 3 full years 2016 2015 and 2014.

The following query will drill into the data a little more and break down the company creation figures, by month and year since 2014.

SELECT YEAR(IncorporationDate) as Yr
,MONTH(IncorporationDate) as Mth
,COUNT (*) AS NoOfCompsCreated
 FROM CompanyData
WHERE YEAR (IncorporationDate) >= 2014
AND ( [SICCode SicText_1] = '62020 - Information technology consultancy activities'
OR [SICCode SicText_1] = '62090 - Other information technology service activities')
Group by YEAR (IncorporationDate),
ORDER BY Yr, mth

In the graphs above, the top chart shows the number of IT company creations per month; note that from month 2 to month 6 (Feb to June )there is dramatic drop in IT Company registrations in 2016. Month 6 – June being the BREXIT vote in the UK. Month 4 is when the dividend tax changes came into place.

Surprisingly, the figures recover dramatically in the month after Brexit vote bucking the overall trend for total company creations, you can see in the second graph which shows total company creations across all industry fell the month after Brexit. IT companies bucking the overall trend

Whether it’s Brexit or dividend tax, company creation was certainly impacted by these two events last year. It will be interesting to see how the budget changes announced last week and the IR35 changes coming into play in the public, will impact on the IT industry – I suspect they will have an impact.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

UK Budget 2017 – The Death Knell for Small Business?

Well I suspect not however I suspect it will likely have a major impact. What has this got to do with SQL and Data I hear you ask? I’m going to provide a little background first. Over the last week or so it has been an interesting political week here in the UK. We had the annual government budget statement. This is where the government gives us an update on the overall financial health of the economy/country and introduces policy changes, around things like taxation and how the tax monies will be spent.  Throw that into the mix, Brexit and the triggering of article 50 looks imminent at the time of writing.

If you work as an IT Contractor or consultant running a business in the IT field, you are likely to be affected by some of the changes announced to the tax system in the recent budget. For example,if you run a limited company another huge cut in dividend relief, following on from the cut that came into effect in April 2016. All in all, if you are self-employed or run a company you will be likely to pay more tax.

 If you run a business through a limited company, the amount of money you can take in dividends without paying tax has been reduced by more than a half from £5000 to £2000. So limited company directors will pay more tax on what they take from their company. This is the second time in the space of a year this figure has changed.

What I wanted to do though was look at how these economic decisions can impact on the business community.

This got me thinking about what data would be available in this area. The UK government makes many of its data sets available, for free online. In this post we’ll look at using the Companies House data set that you can download from

More Self-employed people

One of the arguments for the changes, is that these days there are most self-employed people. Is this true? I suspect so. Most IT contractors and consultants operate through a limited company. There are many reasons that IT contractors make this decision in running their business that are outside the scope of this post. But has there been an increase in the number of IT contractor’s operating through a limited company?

Companies house is the government department/organization  that is responsible for registering companies in the UK, makes part of its data set available free, that you can download. You can get it from the website. It comes in a set of CSV file. I downloaded these and imported them into may favorite database SQL Server using SSIS. See the link?

I wanted to look at whether the number of registered companies that work in the IT area had increased over time. I ran a query that pulled out all the companies with a Standard Industry Classification (SIC) code that contained Information technology in the description. 

It turns out there are two codes in use:

62020 - Information technology consultancy activities
62090 - Other information technology service activities

I also wanted only the companies that had been created since 1990 – so we can see how the figures have changed over the last 30 years. Just note, I am just looking at companies that have been created in the time frame – this doesn’t mean that the company is still active or ever was active it could have always been dormant, but someone took the time to register a company with that SIC during this time

I imported the companies house data into a SQL Server database table called CompanyData.

This is my query for extracting number of IT companies created each year

SELECT YEAR(IncorporationDate) as Yr
,COUNT (*) AS NoOfCompsCreated
 FROM CompanyData
WHERE YEAR (IncorporationDate) > 1990
AND ( [SICCode SicText_1] = '62020 - Information technology consultancy activities'
OR [SICCode SicText_1] = '62090 - Other information technology service activities')
Group by YEAR (IncorporationDate)

I grouped by year of incorporation to break the count down by year. I also wanted to play with Power BI to do some visualization. 

The results are very interesting since 1990, and since around about 2010 in particular there has been a huge increase in the number of IT related companies registered with companies house. Maybe more people are slef-employed.

How does the budget policy and other poltical decisions impact on  you can see, 2016 saw a dramatic drop in the number of IT companies created.  You can see a snippet of the queries results below:

2016 saw just over 15000 IT companies registered at Companies house, compared with over 25000 in 2015 and over 21000 in 2014. Quite a drop in the number of new companies created. Approximately 10000 less companies created in 2016 compared to the year previous. You can see on the graph how the financial crisis of 2007/2008 and 2009 had an impact on IT company creation too, perhaps not as dramatic. As what happened in 2016…A major change in dividend tax and of course everyone’s favorite Brexit!

In the next post we’ll drill into these figures a little more to see if you can decide if it was Brexit, the dividend tax change or something else that caused the decline in company creation.

If you want to learn how to write SQL queries like the ones used in this post, check out our IT Training page 

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