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Category Archives: Backup

The Importance of Disaster Recovery

Most business owners don’t normally think they will be a victim of a natural disaster…not until an unforeseen crisis happens and their company ends up suffering from thousands or millions of dollars in economic and operational losses — all because of the lack of thoughtful disaster preparedness. This post gives small or mid-sized businesses (SMBs) basic information on the vital importance of having a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan to help them survive any potential disasters.

As we all know, unpredictability is a fact of life. The aftermath of Tropical Storm Bill in Texas and recent floods in South Carolina are a grim and unfortunate lesson for many overconfident business owners who think their companies are spared from the likelihood of cataclysmic weather, technological malfunctions, or human actions. A 2014 survey by the IT Disaster Recovery Preparedness (DRP) Council reveals just how many companies worldwide are at risk: 73 percent of SMBs are failing in terms of disaster readiness. What does this mean? It means that 3 out of 4 companies aren’t prepared to handle emergencies and save their businesses from a worse-case scenario.

If it’s not clear and compelling enough for a business owner like yourself to consider putting a well-conceived Disaster Recovery (DR) plan into place, perhaps it’s time to give it some thought. Doing so can save you years of business loss. Here is some useful information about what DR is all about and how it can ensure your business’s survival in the wake of unforeseen circumstances.

What is Disaster Recovery (DR)?

Disaster recovery is a plan for restoring and accessing your data in the event of a disaster that destroys part or all of a business’s resources. It is a key component involving many aspects of business operations that requires this information to function. The job of a DR plan is to ensure that whatever happens, your vital data can be recovered and mission-critical applications will be brought back online in the shortest possible time.

What kind of disasters are likely to happen?

Business disasters can either be natural, technological, or man-made. Natural types of disasters include floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, and even a pest infestation. On the other hand, technological and man-made disasters involve hazardous material spills, infrastructural or power failure, nuclear power plant meltdown or blast, chemical threat and biological weapons, cyber attacks, explosions, or acts of terrorism and civil unrest.

Why does your business need DR?

Regardless of industry or size, when an unforeseen event takes place and causes day-to-day operations to come to a halt, a company will need to recover as quickly as possible to ensure you will continue providing services to clients and customers. Downtime is one of the biggest IT expenses that any business can face. Based on 2015 disaster recovery statistics, downtime that lasts for one hour can cost small companies as much as $8,000, mid-size organizations $74,000, and $700,000 for large enterprises.

For SMBs particularly, any extended loss of productivity can lead to reduced cash flow through late invoicing, lost orders, increased labor costs as staff work extra hours to recover from the downtime, missed delivery dates, and so on. If major business disruptions are not anticipated and addressed today, it’s very possible that these negative consequences resulting from an unexpected disaster can have long-term implications that affect a company for years. By having a Disaster Recovery plan in place, a company can save itself from multiple risks including out of budget expenses, reputation loss, data loss, and the negative impact on clients and customers.

How do I create a Disaster Recovery strategy for my business?

Creating, implementing and maintaining a total business recovery plan is time-consuming but extremely important to ensure your business’s survival. Many organizations don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to this process. If you would like to protect your company from unexpected disasters but need further guidance and information on how to get started, give us a call and our experts will be happy to discuss Disaster Recovery options and solutions with you.

4 data backup methods

BusinessContinuity_Jun25_B

Data is essential for running an organization, and it is certainly the central component of any business continuity plan. Without immediate and constant access to data, your business will come to a grinding halt. Worse still, in the event of a disaster you could risk losing valuable data if you don’t have a backup strategy in place. Backing up data should be at the top of your list of priorities, so here are some devices you can use to protect your data.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to data backups. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each of the backup devices below before making a purchase.

USB stick

USB flash drives are basically miniature hard drives that you connect to your computer using a USB port. The drives are extremely cheap, with prices depending on their capacity. They’re also portable, and can be used to backup information from several computers to the same drive.

Although USB sticks are highly convenient, they’re still not a complete backup solution, and are best suited for intermediate backups, such as storing file recovery programs or critical business documents.

External hard drive

An external hard drive is perfect when used as backup storage media. It has the lowest cost per gigabyte when compared to the other backup devices out there. External hard drives use the same plug-and-play functionality as USB sticks, so you can plug the drive into your computer and immediately start selecting the files you want to backup. The transfer rate is also very fast, and you can backup a large amount of data within seconds.

One of the evident drawbacks of using an external hard drive is that you’ll need to update your backups on a regular basis, or else new files won’t be included. There’s also the risk of the device being stolen or misused. For instance, a colleague may take your drive when you’re away from your desk, or a disgruntled employee may copy all of your important business files and take it with them when quitting.

Network attached storage

Network attached storage, or NAS for short, is a dedicated device with its own IP address. It can be used as a multimedia server, and can function as an email or lightweight database server. NAS offers data redundancy, meaning it will generate a backup of your backups, so you can ensure your files are fully protected.

The main downside of NAS is its inability to scale beyond the limits of the system; you have to purchase additional hard drive bays when you need more capacity. You also have to take full responsibility for data security if you’re implementing NAS.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular among businesses of all sizes, due to its many benefits such as allowing users to access data anywhere on smartphone devices, as well as enabling you to work with the most current hardware and up-to-date software. It is also affordable, since you’ll only have to pay for what you use. What’s more, cloud computing is very convenient, because your service provider will take care of the installation, management, and maintenance processes.

On the downside, some cloud service providers don’t employ sufficient security measures on their systems, so your data could be exposed to potential cybersecurity threats. This means that it is not always the ideal solution for companies dealing with very sensitive data – medical practices and law firms, for example. Predicting costs can also be hard; if your business is growing rapidly, then you might find you have not adequately planned for incremental costs.

Choosing the best system for backup is a critical decision that will impact your business on a daily basis. There are trade-offs among backup devices, which is why you need to choose the solution – or solutions – best suited to your business. Contact us today and our experts will assess your company’s needs and provide the best backup solutions for you.

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Business continuity testing process

Trouble aheadDisasters can happen at any time, which is why it is important for your company to have a business continuity plan. In the event your business gets hit with an unforeseen disaster, you’ll be able to minimize damage, downtime, and impact to your business operations. If you don’t have a contingency plan to protect valuable data and technology, you may face serious consequences, the worst of which is shutting down your business for good.

Relevant factors such as your business’s resources, location, suppliers, customers, and employees must be carefully analyzed before a business continuity plan can be formed. It is also necessary to test the plan and check whether it’s working or not. Here are some proven methods to test your continuity plan’s efficiency.

Review the BCP

You have a business continuity plan ready with all the necessary information, contingency locations, personnel, contacts and service companies. The question is can you really pull it off? Have the plan reviewed regularly, or at least quarterly. Gather a team of individuals, heads of departments and managers to discuss the plan. Focus on the business continuity plan’s feasibility and pinpoint any areas where it might be strengthened.

Determine time and duration to test the plan

You should decide how often you test your business continuity plan, and for how long. Even if you have a solid plan in place, it’s still wise to review it again after a few months. Come up with a schedule for testing the plan and share it with employees. Testing time may take anywhere from one day to two weeks. However, it can also take as little as three hours to determine the effectiveness of the plan by monitoring employees’ responses and decision-making abilities, based on the guidelines of the business continuity plan.

Outline objectives to employees

Most business continuity plans fail because they have never been properly relayed to employees. Emphasizing the plan’s importance to your business and demonstrating it to employees are crucial. You need to outline objectives for the business continuity test to your employees, informing them how you plan to measure its success and failure, so that they get a general idea of their roles and your expectations.

Create a scenario

Create a fake scenario that affects your business – whether it’s setting off fire alarms or announcing another disaster. Employees should act as though the scenario is genuine, and refer to their duties in the business continuity plan, going through it step by step. Monitor the time it takes to get everything under control, from contacting customers to checking business resources and temporary meeting locations.

Evaluation

After the business continuity plan is put to test, gather your employees to discuss the plan’s overall performance. Identify where it needs improvement and encourage the parts that worked best. Make changes to key persons and actions where necessary, to ensure that the continuity plan is working at its best.

Having a business continuity plan is good, but testing it regularly is equally important. Contact us today and see how we can help you cope with unexpected disasters.

What are online backup solutions?

BCP_Dec23_BWith a Disaster Recovery Plan and Business Continuity Plan, businesses need to ensure that a proper data and system backup solution is in place. There are many different ways to implement a backup solution, with one of the most common being online or cloud-based backup. While these systems are popular, there is still confusion over what exactly they are.

What exactly is online backup?

Generally speaking, online backup is a backup system whereby your files, folders, and even systems, are backed up to an offsite storage server over your Internet connection. Tech experts also refer to this service as remote or cloud-based backup.

When you back up your files and systems to an online solution, your files are stored off site, usually in redundant data centers. This means that should something happen to your files you can access the system via another computer and restore your backups onto that computer, as long as you have an Internet connection.

For many companies, this is arguably the most efficient form of backup, not because of the backup method itself, but because of the fact that your backups are stored remotely. The chances are that your data will be accessible if your business faces disaster increase, as data can be recovered quicker than with most other systems.

How do online backups work?

Like most other technical systems out there, there are numerous varieties of online backups. Some of the most effective are image-based, which take a snapshot of a computer or server at a specific time and then upload this to the remote backup servers. This snapshot contains the whole system as it is and can be easily recovered.

Other solutions can be automated to back up specific files and folders, and run through a Web-based interface that can execute a backup from almost anywhere. Beyond this, many systems can be managed by a company like us. We can implement a system that works best for your company and your data, and then manage it so that your data will always be available when you need it. Should something go wrong, we can even help you recover your systems.

4 Benefits of online backup

Companies that implement an online-based backup have been able to realize the following benefits:

  1. Decreased recovery time – Because your data is stored online, as long as you have an Internet connection you can begin recovery at the click of a button; there is no having to go find your backup, then figure out how to recover it. Most companies see a generally reduced backup recovery time when they implement an online system.
  2. Increased backup reliability – Over time, physical systems break and need to be replaced, and this can happen at any time. Because online systems are managed by other companies whose main job is to ensure backups are always available, you see increased reliability with these systems.
  3. Decreased costs – Physical backup systems can be costly, especially if you have a large number of systems or a large amount of data to back up. Many online providers charge a flat monthly fee that often works out to be less costly than other solutions. Beyond this, you don’t need to invest in physical backup solutions and the storage space to house and maintain these. As a result you should see lower costs.
  4. Increased data availability – As long as you have an Internet connection, your data will be available. This means you don’t have to worry about your offsite physical data being okay, if you have a problem or disaster strikes on your premises. With online services data is available when you need it.

If you would like to learn more about online backup, contact us today and let us reveal just how dynamic and effective our solutions can be. Don’t wait until you have to face a backup issue to back up your vital data!

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8 data backup tips – Part 2

BCP_Aug05_CRegardless of the industry you operate in, or the size of your business, you should be taking steps to ensure that your business is ready for any disaster. While there are many paths you can take to ensure your business is ready, there is one element that is central to all plans: backing up your data. In the first part of this article, we took a look at four points that will help improve the effectiveness of your backups. Here are another four.

5. Automate your backup

It can be tough to actually remember to back up your files, especially if your business is busy. Therefore, you could look into an automated backup solution. At the very least, you should set a schedule as to when backups are conducted and set what is being backed up. While this isn’t a full automation, a schedule will help.

If you are using solutions like the cloud or NAS (Network Attached Storage), you can usually automate the process by selecting which files and folders to back up and when. The software that powers these solutions will then do this automatically.

Ideally, your backups should be carried out automatically to ensure your data is available should you need it. But you should check periodically to ensure that your data is actually being backed up. This is especially true if you are backing up other systems, as there have been cases where employees have become frustrated by the backup process and simply turned it off. The business owner, thinking their data was being backed up would be in for a bit of a shock when systems crashed, if this was the case.

6. Back up your backups

Redundancy of your backups is just as important as actually backing up your data. You should keep a backup of your backup in case something happens to your original backup. While this doesn’t have to be carried out as often as the ‘normal’ backup, this should be done on a regular basis.

In order to really ensure backup redundancy we recommend that if your main backup is kept on-site, then the secondary backup should be on another storage medium that is kept off-site.

7. Don’t forget data stored on non-physical drives

What we are referring to here is the data stored on different services like your email, social media, and non-physical locations. This is especially true if you say have you own servers. It’s highly likely that there is data stored on these services as well, and should they go down and you haven’t kept a backup, you may lose important information.

Essentially, think about critical data that is used in the company, but isn’t physically kept on computers. It may feel like this is going a step too far with backups, especially for businesses who use email services like Exchange and Gmail. However, while the chances of these systems going down are incredibly rare, it could still happen. Therefore, you should conduct a monthly to bi-yearly backup just to ensure that data is there somewhere should something happen.

8. Test your backups

Finally, it is beneficial to actually test your backups from time-to-time to ensure that they are not only working but the data is actually recoverable. If you do a trial run on recovering your data, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to retrieve this information when you actually need to recover it. You can then take steps to optimize this and let the relevant people know.

Also, testing is a good way to discover any problems, e.g., if someone has disabled backups, or one solution isn’t working. This will ensure that your data is there when you need it.

If you are looking to integrate a data backup solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

8 tips to back up your data – Part 1

One of the most important tasks a business can do is to back up its data. It’s really a matter of when you will lose important data, not if, and if it’s not backed up there is a good chance it will be gone forever. In an effort to avoid this, it is worth taking your data backup seriously. To help, we have come up with a list of eight data backup tips.

1. Pick the backup solution that works best for your business

When it comes to backing up the data on your company’s computers and systems, most companies consider five main options:

  • Internal hard drives – You can either use another hard drive installed in your computer or partition an existing hard drive so that it functions as a separate drive on which you back your data up. This is a quick option, however should your computer or the hard drive fail – two of the most common computer failures – then you will lose this data.
  • External hard drives – These drives are essentially separate hard drives that you connect to your computer via a USB or other connection. Many of these drives allow for one touch backup and can be configured to back up data at certain times. While these can be useful, especially if you want to keep data backups easily accessible, they are prone to the same potential failure as internal drives.
  • Removable drives or media – For example, USB flash drives, DVDs, etc. These are great for backing up work you are doing at the moment or for transferring small files from one machine to another. These options are limited by smaller storage sizes however, so backing up even one computer will likely require multiple disks or drives.
  • Cloud-based backup – This is the act of backing up your files to a backup provider over the Internet. Your files are stored off-site and can be restored as long as you have an Internet connection. For many businesses, this has become the main form of backup employed, largely due to cost and convenience – files can be backed up in the background. The biggest downside of this backup option however is that you do need an Internet connection for it to work and you will see more bandwidth being used, which could result in slower overall Internet speeds when files are being backed up.
  • NAS – Network Attached Storage, is a physical device that has slots for multiple hard drives. You connect this to your network and the storage space on the hard drives is pooled together and delivered to users. This solution is like a mix of cloud-based and external backup, only the device is usually in your office. While it is a good backup solution, it can get expensive, especially if you have a large number of systems to back up.

There are a wide variety of backup solutions available, so it is a good idea to sit down and figure out which are best for your business. The vast majority of companies integrate multiple solutions in order to maximize the effectiveness of their backups and spread the risk of losing data around a bit.

2. Split your backup locations

Despite all of the backup options available, you can narrow these down to two categories, the fact that the backups are kept in two locations:

  • On-site – Data backup solutions that are kept in your office. This could include internal hard drives, or NAS, and more. The idea here is that the data backup is kept in your office. Some like USB drives may leave the office, but the main idea is that they are used primarily in the office.
  • Off-site – Data backup solutions are stored off-site, or out of the office. The best example of this is cloud-based backup where your data is stored in a data center, most likely in another city. Another example is backing up to hard drives and storing them in a secure location outside of the office.

In order to ensure that your data backups are available should you need them you could split up the locations where they are kept. Should you keep all of your backups on hard drives in the office and there is damage to the premises, you could see your data disappear. One of the most effective strategies is to have one set of backups on-site, and another off-site which will ensure that should there be a disaster in one location, the other will likely be safe and you will still be able to access your data.

3. Establish a standard naming and filing system

Have you ever seen how people organize their hard drives? Some like to use folders and subfolders that are organized neatly, while others tend to throw files into one general folder. The same can be said for they way files are named – there’s just so many differences.

Because of these differences, it can be difficult to back up and recover files properly. We recommend that you pick a naming and file system that every file and folder will follow across all systems. This means backups will be quicker, you will be able to see what is new, and you will spend less time organizing files.

Beyond this, an efficient naming and organization structure goes a long way toward making it easier to find files and recover them should your systems go down.

4. Determine which files need to be preserved

While it may be tempting to back up every file and folder up, in an effort to maximize efficiency of your solution, it is better to not back everything up. We aren’t saying don’t back anything up, but you should take time to identify what files and folders are to be backed up. For example, screenshots that have been uploaded to the Web may not need to be kept.

The same can be said for non-work related files. While these may be important to your personal life, they likely aren’t to the business so should not be backed up onto your business backups.

Look at each file and folder and see if it has something to do with business decisions, or is in anyway tied to your business. If it is then it is probably a good idea to keep it.

Stay tuned for the next four tips coming soon. If you would like to learn more about data backups in the mean time however, please contact us today.

3 business backup options

BCP_May13_CData is an integral part of any business, and it is a good idea to ensure that it is always available to your business too. This means you also need to back it up in case disaster jeopardizes or wipes out your original data. Looking into backup solutions, you will quickly come to see that there are a number of options you can employ. The challenge then is deciding on which one.

Three common backup options

When it comes to backing up your systems, there are three common platforms that are used:

  • Tape
  • Disk
  • Cloud

Some businesses use all three, while others stick to using just one. While each of these options do the same thing – essentially backing up your data – there are differences between each platform.

Tape-based backup

Tape-based backup is the oldest forms of data backup available to businesses, and has been in use since the mid 1960s. Many older, or well established businesses, likely have used this method for a long time, so they may find it easier to stick with it, largely because no infrastructure upgrades are needed.

While this method may seem a little anachronistic, there are still manufacturers creating backup tapes – most notable Sony, who recently introduced a new tape system that can store up to 185TB (terabytes) of data on one tape. That’s about equal to the storage capacity of around 11,800 16GB iPhone 5s.

The vast majority of businesses using this system do so as a secondary backup. They use another system to back up their data, and then back up this backup data onto physical tape which can then be moved off-site and stored in a safe location, should disaster strike.

The biggest drawback of tape stem from the fact that it is an older method and it takes longer to back up data compared to other systems. The tapes themselves are also more fragile and can be prone to failure, leading to corrupt data and unreadability. Finally, if you do need to recover from a tape backup, you are going to have to do so in a specific manner, which means it will take longer to recover your systems than other methods.

Disk-based backup

Disk-based backup solutions use a variety of disk storage units to hold backups of your data. The most popular forms of disk storage used are hard drives or optical disks. Because these systems use more modern storage methods, backup and recovery can generally be carried out far quicker than with tape systems, and can be more reliable, especially if you take care of your systems and the disks the backups are stored on.

The added benefit with these systems is that hard disks are constantly dropping in price and increasing in capacity, meaning you can fit more data on fewer devices. This helps keep costs manageable, and may result in reduced costs over time.

Because disk-based systems rely on hard drives or optical disks, there is always the chance that your backups can be lost, ruined or even stolen. Also, many companies choose to keep these physical backups on-site, so if there is a disaster this could result in the loss of these backups.

To get around this, many companies have duplicate systems. They back up to different devices which are kept off-site. This redundancy can help ensure that your data is available, but it can be expensive to purchase multiple backup solutions.

Cloud-based backup

Cloud, or online-based backup, utilizes off-site technology to host your backups. Most small business solutions work with providers who host the servers in their organization. The business then connects to the servers via a network connection in order to backup their data.

The biggest advantage of cloud systems is that they are generally more affordable. This is because you don’t need to have the systems in your office, which means you don’t need to pay for the data systems and the upkeep associated with them. Cloud systems are also less labor intensive because they can be managed by your IT partner.

Aside from being easier to manage, backup and recovery is usually quicker with the cloud because you can set up a solution that continually backs up. As long as you have an Internet connection, you will usually be able to restore your systems in a matter of hours.

While the cloud is becoming the most popular backup solution, there are some drawbacks. You need a faster bandwidth connection if you want to be able to back up while also working. This may require you to invest in better network infrastructure, which costs. The other issue some companies have is that because this is a new solution, they may not trust that the solution is secure. The vast majority of backup solutions available have been designed to be secure and have become a viable solution for many smaller businesses.

If you are looking to implement a backup solution in your business, contact us today to learn about what solutions we have to offer.

DRP: Save your business from disaster

BCP_Feb17_CDisaster recovery features have become a vital aspect for small to medium businesses. With systems and networks becoming more complex, there are many things that can go wrong. It’s for this reason that a business needs to have a DRP, or Disaster Recovery Plan. These plans are a good way of protecting your business from unforeseen calamities that could disrupt your business process.

When creating a disaster recovery plan for your business, there are certain key elements that you need to consider.

Basics of a Disaster Recovery Plan

In building an effective disaster recovery plan, you should include thorough documentation that lays out the details of the ins and outs of the plan. You need to know that there is no right type of DRP, nor is there a single template that fits all. But there are three basic aspects to a disaster recovery plan: Preventive measures, detective measures, and corrective measures.

In addition, before building your disaster recovery plan, make sure that it can provide an answer to these basic questions:

  1. What is the objective and the purpose of making one?
  2. Who are the assigned team responsible when certain events occur?
  3. What is the framework and the procedure to be followed?

Plan for the worst case scenario

Since you’re planning for an unforeseen event, you might as well make sure that you have plan for the worst case scenario. That way, you’ll never be overwhelmed and you’re as prepared as you can be for any situation.

Having different tiers of backup plans is also advisable. It gives you a better assurance that when bad comes to worst, you have a system in place to make sure that these disasters are handled correctly, regardless of the disaster’s severity.

Data issues

One of the objectives of disaster recovery plan is to protect the collection of data. Almost half of the total population of business organizations experiences data loss from both physical and virtual environments. This is often due to corruption of the file system, broken internal virtual disks, and hardware failures. Thus, there is a real need for established data recovery plans such as backup features offered by many IT solution vendors.

Test-drive

Before deploying your disaster recovery plan, you need to have a sort of a test-drive to check if it works. Aside from making it work, you also need to know if it’s going to be effective. Through testing, any shortcomings can be identified and will garner corresponding resolutions to improve on your plan. Although the real score of its effectiveness can only be identified once a disaster occurs, at least you will have an idea of how your business and the recovery plan can operate during a disaster.

Building an effective disaster recovery plan is a must for your business. This might not directly lead to a positive impact on productivity but it will surely save you in the events that can possibly crush your business. Anticipating and adjusting for the things that might happen is one of the keys to a company’s success.

Setting up an effective DRP can be quite an intricate process since there are several elements that you need to consider. Should you want to learn more, give us a call and we’ll have our associates help you develop and test a plan that works best for your business.