2017 IT essentials: disaster recovery plan

When disaster strikes, organizations need to put their business continuity plans into action and recover their IT systems as quickly as possible. Failing to do so can mean serious financial and reputational repercussions. Despite this, investments in disaster recovery are set aside each year for high-tech IT investments, and every year companies and employees continue to suffer for it. Here are some reasons why disaster recovery is well worth your time, effort, and resources in 2017.

DR isn’t a huge investment
A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive secondary data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple — and as cheap — as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it
Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the cloud or in a virtualized server, restoring critical data and applications only take a few minutes.

Business disasters can be man-made, too
Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you
A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Why analytics are important to data backups

Data is vital to your business. It’s how you keep records, track activities, and function as a business in general. However, with all of the data that your business generates on a regular basis, it can be difficult to keep everything backed up at all times. Fortunately, there is a way to better prioritize your data backups. By appropriating one of the IT industry’s favorite solutions, you can revolutionize your data backup protocols.

Too much data may sound like a good thing, but depending on your organization, backing up everything à la minute may be out of your price range or just flat out impossible with the amount of information you create. The problem then becomes: How do I structure my backup plan to prioritize the critical files? We believe the answer is analytics.

In order to avoid backing up unneeded data, you’ll require a “smarter” backup solution. This is where an experienced MSP (managed services provider) really earns its keep. We’ve spent years becoming experts in backup solutions and designing systems that keep your mission-critical data healthy, and we can offer something few others can’t: a backup solution that learns.

The first step in ensuring all of your customer information is safely duplicated and quarantined is to install sophisticated analytics engines that help determine what is most essential to your business’s day-to-day operations. These ever-evolving engines will prioritize data in order of importance and translate that to a backup structure that ensures the right data is safe and sound should disaster strike.

Using analytics maintains your existing data-backup solution, but provides it with a map of what to save first, and what to leave for later. What does that mean? Drastically reduced recovery times in the event of untimely outages or disruptions. And, the use of analytics also helps increase efficiency and decrease overall backup costs by providing a better picture of what is unimportant or unnecessary.

Small- and medium-sized businesses have been the drivers of innovation for decades because, as they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” And we’re here to deliver some good news: Whether you’re interested in implementing a cutting-edge analytics engine or simply want to start with a more straightforward solution, we’re ready to create a new system that prioritizes backups, just for you. Take a second to analyze that, then give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

How to avoid your own Delta IT disaster

Earlier this year, thousands of Delta passengers worldwide were grounded due to a power outage that halted critical IT operations. This was a huge problem not only for the many delayed travelers, but also for the airline company itself. Within three days, the airline company cancelled around 2300 flights and paid over millions of dollars in downtime costs. But if you weren’t personally affected, why should you care? Well, without a business continuity in place, companies like yours can face the same repercussions. In order to prevent that, take heed of some poignant lessons companies can learn from Delta’s IT failings.

Strive for 100% redundancy
According to Delta’s chief information officer, a power failure caused the company’s data center to crash, grounding thousands of would-be passengers. Although power was restored six hours after the incident, critical systems and network equipment failed to switch to a secondary site, corrupting valuable data in the process. And while some systems failed over, other vital applications didn’t; this created bottlenecks, decreased revenue, and diminished customers’ confidence.

Delta’s case is a massive wakeup call not just for the airline industry but for every business — large and small. Companies must implement disaster recovery plans for their data centers, on-site technology, and Cloud applications to continue servicing customers while fixing the main issue with their primary systems. Companies also need to get rid of the false notion that redundancy plans to assure service continuity is restricted to larger corporations. DR and business continuity solutions are extremely affordable today, and a partnership with a provider can help you in more ways than one (more on this later).

Always test your backups

So although Delta had a plan to bring its business back to normalcy, the DR plan left a lot to be desired in practice. This begs the question as to whether the airline company is actually testing, reviewing, and reinforcing its vulnerabilities to different disasters.

The point is that even though your company may have a failover protocol in place, that protocol adds no value to your business unless it has been rigorously tried and tested. In order to avoid the same fate as Delta, make sure to find out whether your disaster recovery plan is capable of running mission-critical applications like email and customer service applications before — not after — downtime occurs.

Account for different types of vulnerability

In an interview with the Associated Press, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said, “We did not believe, by any means, that we had this type of vulnerability.” Indeed, it’s often hard to foresee what threats and vulnerabilities a natural disaster, power outage, or hacker can produce. But it’s not impossible.

By conducting a comprehensive audit of your data center security and disaster protocols, your business will be more aware and adept at minimizing the risk of potential disasters. This also means evaluating and preparing for disasters that are likely to happen to your business depending on its geographic location. Southern US, for instance, is prone to hurricanes and flooding.

Call for help

These lessons and strategies are all crucially important, but pulling off a DR and business continuity solution on your own may be difficult. For this reason, it’s critical to have a planned partnership with a managed services provider that can assess, plan, test and install the continuity solutions your business needs in order to minimize the impact and avoid encountering a Delta IT outage of your own.

To find out more about business continuity and guaranteeing complete IT redundancy, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

How business continuity plans can fail

Your service provider, who you have tasked with looking after your company’s IT, has kept your business up and running for the past 10 years. Usually, that kind of longevity in developing continuity plans has resulted to some providers overlooking or underestimating certain issues. Here are some of them.

Over-optimistic testing

The initial testing attempt is usually the most important as it’s when IT service providers can pinpoint possible weak points in the recovery plan. However, what usually happens is a full transfer of system and accompanying operations to the backup site. This makes it difficult to look at specific points of backup with too many factors flowing in all at the same time.

Insufficient remote user licenses

A remote user license is given by service providers to businesses so that when a disaster strikes, employees can log in to a remote desktop software. However, the number of licenses a provider has may be limited. In some cases, more employees will need to have access to the remote desktop software than a provider’s license can allow.

Lost digital IDs

When a disaster strikes, employees will usually need their digital IDs so they can log in to the provider’s remote system while their own system at the office is being restored. However, digital IDs are tied to an employee’s desktop and when a desktop is being backed up, they are not automatically saved. So when an employee goes back to using their ‘ready and restored’ desktop, they are unable to access the system with their previous digital ID.

Absence of communications strategy

IT service providers will use email to notify and communicate with business owners and their employees when a disaster happens. However, this form of communication may not always be reliable in certain cases such as the Internet being cut off or with spam intrusions. There are third-party notification systems available, but they are quite expensive and some providers sell them as a pricey add-on service.

Backups that require labored validation

After a system has been restored, IT technicians and business owners need to check whether the restoration is thorough and complete. This validation becomes a waste of time and effort when the log reports come in a manner that is not easy to compare. This usually happens when IT service providers utilize backup applications that do not come with their own log modules, and have to be acquired separately.

These are just some of the many reasons why business continuity plans fail. It is important for business owners to be involved with any process that pertains to their IT infrastructure. Just because you believe something works doesn’t necessarily mean that it works correctly or effectively. If you have questions regarding your business continuity plan, get in touch with our experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Keep the lights on and your business running

There is nothing worse than having a productive day at the office become undone due to a power outage. Losing power for even a single minute can have far reaching effects on your company’s operations as you need to make sure everything is running properly and all data is accounted for. While power outages can be a nuisance, with proper preparation you’ll have no trouble in persevering when the lights go off.

Power outages are one of the only disasters that can strike just about anywhere in the United States. If you are in Seattle chances are tropical storms are not going to be an issue and if you’re in Miami you aren’t going to fret over a blizzard, but losing power can occur anywhere, at any time and without warning.

A Department of Energy report noted that power outages cost American businesses nearly $150 billion in 2014 and added that increasing demand for energy coupled with an aging infrastructure could see the number of blackouts increase. While weather-related events are the most common cause of power outages in the U.S., it is far from the only thing that can disrupt energy service.

Since this is a problem that will continue to plague businesses, especially those ones that are unprepared, it’s important to be ready should a blackout strike. Here are a few things you should consider when it comes to power outages.

Power outages hurt in more ways than you think

The most notable issue a business faces when a power outage occurs is an inability to work. Employees often times sit around unable to do anything until the power is turned back on. Once the power does return, additional time is needed to safely turn everything back on and to check if all your files are still there.

There are also numerous indirect consequences that your business may face either during or after a power outage. These include a loss of revenue from potential sales, a decrease in customer satisfaction and a drop in your company’s reputation. The more your company is prepared for a power outage, the better continuity you will see and the less damage will be done. While it may be impossible to completely avoid issues caused by blackouts, you can minimize their impact.

Be ready in case of an outage

One of the biggest sources of frustration for employees during a blackout is losing files they had been working on. Autosave features do help prevent this but sometimes you’ll still lose that one important note or sentence you didn’t have the chance to save. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are one way to buy your employees a little extra time should the power go out. You’re able to plug your computer into these devices and they will operate as a battery when the power goes out. The life of these power stations is anywhere from ten minutes to an hour for some models which should give you enough time to save your work and properly shutdown your computer.

If you want to stay in business during a power outage, a standby commercial generator can help. These normally run on propane or natural gas and immediately switch on as soon as your main power supply goes out. If you aren’t concerned about the lights but want to keep your employees productive, equipping them 4G enabled devices with Office 365 or Google Apps will let them continue to work on files that have been saved and stored on the cloud.

Always test your outage plans

Regardless of what your company’s plans are during a power outage, you will need to test them on a regular basis to ensure everything runs smoothly when the real thing does happen. If you utilize a UPS or standby generator, you will want to test these out every six months at the very least to make sure they function properly. If your business has special plans for what employees need to do during a power outage, you should run a practice drill on a yearly basis to ensure everyone is up to speed on their duties.

They key to business continuity is preparation. Let our team of experts help prepare your business for anything thrown its way in 2016 and beyond.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.