business continuity

Taking business continuity to the cloud

Business continuity is often overlooked until it’s too late. But with the cloud on their side, IT departments and business owners can more easily adopt this strategy to help avert the next outage. Here’s how the cloud benefits implementations of business continuity.

Better uptime

Backing up to an internal drive or an external hard drive won’t completely secure data. If someone steals your device, you instantly lose the backup it contains. Natural disasters, cybercrime, or man-made errors will also likely destroy your backups. As a result, your company could face expensive downtime. 

With cloud-hosted backup, however, things are different. The entire purpose of a cloud backup is to make sure your data is available when you need it. Top cloud service providers will offer redundancy, which means they will make a backup of your backups. This increases uptime and ensures optimum levels of data availability.

Fast resource provisioning

When backups are being implemented, spikes in user activity or cloud environment accessibility can slow down a website or other running systems. This is where a cloud hosting provider comes in handy. By closely monitoring user activities, providers can see spikes either before or as they are happening. The provider will provision more resources and virtual machines to manage the influx of users. This type of flexibility is particularly useful when data backups are in process.

Backup frequency

Most companies work on files and update information throughout the day, so it’s important to have a real-time backup plan ready in case an unexpected disaster occurs. When you back up data in the cloud, you will no longer have to worry about managing the frequency of your backups. 

Most cloud-hosted providers offer round-the-clock or other fixed backup frequencies, while others let you set your own backup schedule. Some of the services offered by these providers will back up files as you make changes, so you’ll know that the very latest version of files and data are always backed up.

Distributed infrastructure

Cloud-hosted backup means the delivery of data backup to users all over the world. Selecting the right type of cloud hosting partner is equally as important as having a cloud backup plan in the first place. If international users are trying to access database or download applications through your business website, latency will become a factor — the closer the user is to the data, the faster they’ll be able to access information. 

A suitable cloud hosting partner will be able to provide backup servers at a location that best suits your company’s business continuity needs. Distributed infrastructure is beneficial if you’re looking to support a large number of worldwide users.

Businesses everywhere are utilizing cloud backup solutions, so don’t be the one left behind. If you’re looking for a managed cloud backup service to protect your business data, give us a call today to see how we can help.

Analytics are critical for effective data backups

Collecting data is vital for keeping records, tracking performance, and delighting customers. With so much on the line, it’s never been more important to have backups of all your files. If your data is growing at a rate that’s hard to keep up with, analytics tools are an awesome way to figure out which backups matter most and how to prioritize them.

An excess of information

Nowadays, too much data may sound like a good thing. But for many organizations, creating backups in real-time isn’t economical. So if you’ve wondered how you should structure your backup plan to prioritize the critical files, we have an answer: Analytics tools.

Analyzing vast amounts of data quickly and affordably has never been easier for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The key is working with experienced IT professionals to customize a solution to meet your needs. As an MSP (managed IT services provider), we’ve spent years designing business continuity and disaster recovery plans, often for SMBs that couldn’t create backups every hour.

A smarter solution

Depending on your needs, we can set up sophisticated analytics tools that determine what is most essential to your business’s day-to-day operations. These solutions 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.

These tools integrate with your existing data-backup solution but provide it with a map of what to save first, and what to leave for later. That results in faster recovery times in the event of untimely outages or disruptions. Furthermore, using analytics increases efficiency and decreases overall backup costs by providing a better picture of what is unimportant versus what is unnecessary.

SMBs have been the drivers of innovation for decades because, as they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” So whether you’re interested in top-of-the-line IT solutions or just need to get a better handle on disaster recovery, we’re ready to create a customized backup solution, just for you. Take a second to analyze that, then give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Disaster recovery during hurricane season

There’s no telling when natural disasters will occur. When they do, certain regions in the country often bear the brunt of their impact, like when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit certain states in 2017. With a well-designed disaster recovery (DR) plan, your business can be spared from total devastation.

Determine recovery hierarchy

Certain parts of your IT are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days to get your business back to running efficiently.

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and eCommerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Pay attention to location

First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your off-site facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 mph (as fast as Category 5 storms), and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage.

Use image-based backups

Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in it. From there, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud

The cloud allows you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently

Back up your data often, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on the 15th of September and the next storm makes landfall on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Get in the habit of replicating your files at the end of each day, which should be easy if you’ve opted for image-based backups.

Test your DR plan

After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after disaster strikes. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during this time, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience little-to-no disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company should have.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
 
disaster-recovery-audit

Disaster recovery audit fail: A few lessons

In talking about disaster recovery plans (DPR), it’s best to illustrate with real-world scenarios to help you understand things better. They offer concrete examples of successes and failures, and you can learn a lot from them. Here’s an example of a DPR audit and the lessons it offers.

Hosting certain types of data and managing a government network legally bind you to maintain DRPs. After an audit of the Michigan Department of Technology and Budget, several failures led to a trove of helpful tips for small- and medium-sized businesses attempting to create a bulletproof disaster recovery plan.

Update and test your plan frequently

What was one of the first and most obvious failures of the department’s DRP? It didn’t include plans to restore an essential piece of their infrastructure — the department’s intranet. Without it, the employees are unable to complete even the most basic of tasks.

The reason for the oversight? The last time the plan was updated was in 2011, leaving out more than six years of IT advancements. If annual revisions sound like too much work, just consider all of the IT upgrades and improvements you’ve made in this year alone. If they’re not accounted for in your plan, you’re destined to fail.

Keep your DRP in an easy-to-find location

It may seem a bit ironic that the best way to store your top-of-the-line business continuity solution is in a binder, but the Michigan Department of Technology and Budget learned the hard way that the alternatives don’t work. Auditors found the DRP stored on the same network it was meant to restore. Which means if something had happened to the network, the plan would be totally inaccessible.

Your company would do well to store electronic copies on more than one network in addition to physical copies around the office and off-site.

Always prepare for a doomsday scenario

The government office made suitable plans for restoring the local area network (LAN), but beyond that, there was no way for employees to get back to work within the 24-hour recovery time objective.

Your organization needs to be prepared for the possibility that there may not be a LAN to go back to. Cloud backups and software are the best way to keep everything up and running when your office is flooded or crushed beneath a pile of rubble.

Your DRP is more than just a pesky legal requirement. It’s the insurance plan that will keep you in business when disaster strikes. Our professionals know the importance of combining both academic and real-world resources to make your plan airtight when either auditors or blizzards strike. Message us today about bringing that expertise to your business.

Tips to reduce risks after a security breach

No company is completely safe from data breaches. For proof, look no further than companies like Yahoo, AOL, and Home Depot, which compromised millions of personal customer information. That said, no business is completely helpless, either. The following steps can minimize the risks to your business in the event of a large-scale data breach.

Determine what was breached

Whether its names, addresses, email addresses, or social security numbers, it’s critical to know exactly what type of information was stolen before determining what steps to take. For example, if your email address were compromised, you’d take every precaution to strengthen your email security, which includes updating all your login credentials.

Change affected passwords immediately

Speaking of passwords, change yours immediately after any breach, even for seemingly safe accounts. Create a strong password comprised of alphanumeric and special characters, and make sure you never reuse passwords from your other accounts.

Once you’ve changed all your passwords, use a password manager to help you keep track of all your online account credentials.

If the website that breached your information offers two-factor authentication (2FA), enable it right away. 2FA requires two steps to verify security: usually a password and a verification code sent to a user’s registered mobile number.

Contact financial institutions

In cases where financial information was leaked, call your bank and credit card issuers to change your details, cancel your card, and notify them of a possible fraud risk. That way, banks can prevent fraud and monitor your account for suspicious activity.

Note that there are different rules for fraudulent transactions on debit cards and credit cards. Credit card transactions are a bit easier to dispute because they have longer grace periods. Debit card fraud, on the other hand, is more difficult to dispute, especially if the fraudulent transactions happened after you’ve notified the bank.

Place a fraud alert on your name

Hackers who have your personal information can easily commit identity fraud. To avoid becoming a victim, contact credit reporting bureaus like EquifaxExperian, or Innovis and request that a fraud alert (also called credit alert) be added to your name. This will block any attempt to open a credit account under your name and prevent unauthorized third parties from running a credit report on you.

Putting a credit freeze on your name might result in minor inconveniences, especially if you have an ongoing loan or credit card application. Still, doing so will greatly reduce your risks of getting defrauded.

These steps will ensure you don’t fall victim to identity theft in the event of a large-scale data breach. If you want to take a more proactive approach to protect your sensitive information against breaches, contact our cybersecurity experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
The-best-anti-ransomware-tool

Virtual DR: The best anti-ransomware tool

From CryptoLocker to WannaCry, ransomware has grown in sophistication and scope over the past few years. And given its widespread success with hackers, more ransomware attacks will likely be developed further into 2018. In anticipation of these attacks, many experts are saying that virtualized disaster recovery solutions may be the best way to defend against future ransomware.

Virtual DR

Virtual DR solutions allow you to create point-in-time copies, or “snapshots,” of operating systems, data, and virtual machines as they appear at a given point in time. These snapshots can then be loaded onto any workstation with everything still intact. In the event of a ransomware attack, administrators can essentially roll back the system to a point before the malware hit.

What’s great about point-in-time copy features is that they are automated. Just schedule the snapshots, and your virtual DR software will do the rest. And although virtual DR solutions vary, most of them have the capacity to store thousands of point-in-time copies, giving you plenty of restore points to choose from.

Why virtual DR trumps traditional DR

Traditional DR methods don’t have these features. Even though most computer operating systems have a system restore functionality, modern ransomware strains are designed to disable them. On the other hand, virtual DR software isolates point-in-time copies and restore functionality from virtual machines, which means they can’t be affected if one virtual machine was compromised with ransomware.

Another reason why traditional DR is not a great option is because there is a lot of manual labor involved. You have to copy all your data into a backup drive, reinstall applications, and reconfigure hardware. By the time you’ve recovered from the ransomware attack, the financial and reputational damage caused by downtime will have taken its toll on your business.

When recovering your system, you want as little hassle as possible. With virtual DR, you can load a clean, ransomware-free snapshot onto your system in less than 30 minutes.

However, implementing virtual DR can be complex, especially if you don’t have much IT expertise. But if you partner with us, this won’t be a problem! Call us today to get robust solutions that guarantee business continuity.