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Category Archives: Disaster Recovery

Ransomware ravages Microsoft Office 365

Picture yourself receiving a phone call from kidnappers saying that they have snatched your only child while demanding a ridiculous amount of money for their safety. Now imagine a similar scenario, but this attack is geared towards Microsoft Office 365 users, complete with a ransom note and an audio message informing victims that their files have already been encrypted. Here’s what Microsoft had to say about the situation:

Steven Toole, a researcher for the cloud-security firm Avanan, detailed that his company experienced the first attack at 6:44 a.m. on June 22nd. Another interesting fact is that at least 57 percent of all Microsoft Office 365 customers on Avanan’s platform received at least one phishing attempt that contained the infected attachment. While Avanan did extrapolate the number of Office 365 users involved, the exact number has yet to be revealed.

This is particularly interesting since according to Microsoft’s first quarter reports in 2016, there are over 18.2 million Office 365 subscribers worldwide. On top of the global scale in which the attacks took place, it took Microsoft over 24 hours for the attack to be detected and for any attempts to block the attachment to be made.

Microsoft’s side of the story shares many similarities with slight differences on the detection and actions made about the ransomware attack. In an email to SCMagazine.com, the spokesperson wrote:

“Office 365 malware protection identified the attack and was updated to block it within hours of its origination on June 22. Our investigations have found that this attack is not specific to Office 365 and only a small percentage of Office 365 customers were targeted, all of which have been protected.”

The point is Office 365 was compromised, regardless of how quickly it was detected – many people were asked for a ransom and were told that their files have already been encrypted. Still wanting to come across as polite, the ransom came with an audio recording that detailed what the attack was and what measures must be taken in order to regain access to the files. The unknown attacker asked for a ransom of 1.4 bitcoins or an equivalent of $500 in exchange for the decryption key.

Toole noted that “This attack seems to be a variation of a virus originally detected on network mail servers back in early March of this year,” He also added that “As it respawned into a second life, this time Cerber was widely distributed after its originator was apparently able to easily confirm that the virus was able to bypass the Office 365 built-in security tools through a private Office 365 mail account.”

This proves that cyber criminals go to great lengths to not only use their tools but to improve on them and eliminate flaws. So no matter how many firewalls, passwords or fire-breathing dragons you have to guard your servers and networks, without the right network security measures in place, chances are they’ll manage to find a way to overcome the hurdles and wreak whatever havoc they can.

Network security isn’t something to be taken lightly, if you are unsure about how safe or how capable your systems are in fending off cyber threats – get in touch with us. Our experienced and friendly staff will help you with any ransomware or security-related issue you have.

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.

Can Your Business Survive A Disaster?

Are you ready – can your Business Survive A Disaster ?
Disasters. They do happen — it’s only a matter of ‘when’.

Disasters. They do happen — it’s only a matter of ‘when’. While most businesses acknowledge it, surveys show that only one in four companies worldwide have adequate protection in the event of a major disruption. We’re not talking about insurance here, but a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan that could save you thousands of dollars in losses and worse, a business closure. If you haven’t heard much about what DR is, this post will help you gain some insight about what it is and how it can affect the future of your business.

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, your Business Survive A Disaster and your 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 DR 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 make sure your Business Survive A Disaster 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.

Black Knight IT – Security Notice (High Alert) 23.10.15

Black Knight IT –

Security Notice (High Alert)

Beware of CryptoLocker:

Over the past few days Black Knight has had numerous reports of CryptoLocker – the file encrypting ransomware strain. This is usually recieved from an email link: is commonly referred to as CryptoLocker or Trojan:Win32/Crilock.A.

This ransomware is particularly nasty because infected users are in danger of losing their personal files forever… To get their data back, infected users are held to ransom: and instructed to pay $300 USD to receive a private key. Infected users also have a time limit to send the payment. If this time elapses, the private key is destroyed, and your files may be lost forever.

To read more about this nasty virus, click here (malwarebytes.org) or here (Dell SonicWall)


 

Be aware of what you click!

Especially when decryption of encrypted files is impossible: which in the case of CryptoLocker it may be, prevention is of the utmost importance.

    • Be wary of what you click: do not fall for the scam. Only open links in emails from a safe sender, ensure you do not fall for pop-up ads.
    • Ensure you have preformed an online and offline backup of all your important files.
    • Users have a reduced risk of falling victim to either CryptoLocker or the malware downloader from the initial email campaign if they keep their Security and Firewall settings updated and monitored…
    • SonicWALL Gateway Antivirus provides protection against this particular threat.

 


 

If in doubt, give us a call.

We would much rather a false alarm then a massive disaster leading to data loss…

Phone: (07) 3806 6717

How to Recover Data When Your Hard Drive Goes Belly Up

How to Recover Data When Your Hard Drive Goes Belly Up

Article by Nick Parsons (8.02.13) 
from http://www.lifehacker.com.au/

Imagine this: you’re busy working on your computer and need to access documents saved on your external hard drive. You connect it, get ready to find your data, and…nothing happens. Your hard drive isn’t working. Uh oh. Before you panic, there are several things you can try on your own before calling us.

Data loss can be due to a number of factors, but two are the most common. The first (and easiest to resolve) is software related. You’ve accidentally deleted an important folder and emptied the recycle bin, or gone and formatted the wrong drive by mistake. The second—and probably most common—cause of data loss is a fault with the hard drive itself. Given the complexity of modern drives it’s no wonder that somewhere along the line something will go wrong. When the drive suffers from some form of failure there’s often little that you can do yourself to get the data back—professional data recovery services are usually required. However,there are certain failures that you can attempt to resolve yourself.

Recover Your Data with Software

When dealing with a software data loss, the first and most important thing to keep in mind isnot to work with the drive in question. Every second that the drive is connected to a running system is a second that you lose your chances at recovery. Your operating system is reading and writing to your drive constantly, whether you’re actively doing something or not. Now that your system is seeing the deleted data as ‘free space’ it will happily overwrite this area—along with your chances of recovery.

  1. Shutdown the machine connected to the drive you’ve deleted data from. Now that your drive is ‘safe’ you can make a clone of the drive and attempt the recovery from the clone. There are a number of waysto clone the drive, some easier and quicker than others.
  2. Scan the clone with a few different recovery programs. There are numerous optionshere, both free and paid-for packages are available. Recuva is a good free option, while Zero Assumption Recovery works well if you want to splash out a few dollars.

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Pictured: The basic components of a hard drive with top cover off and PCB removed.

Recover Your Data with Hardware

Having covered the ‘deleted data’ section of data recovery is all good and well, but what happens if your drive is not even being detected by your machine? Or your machine can see the drive, but just hangs when you try to access it? What about if the drive is completely dead and won’t even spin up? Let’s briefly cover the main components of a drive, see which components can fail, and what symptoms each failure might exhibit.

PCB: This is the (often green) circuit board attached to the bottom of your drive. It houses the main controller (the equivalent of your computer’s CPU) along with many other electronic controllers. This is the interface that turns your 0s and 1s from the platter into usable data that your computer can understand.

Platters: Your drive contains one or more thin, circular platters. These spin around at anywhere between 5,900rpm to 7,200rpm on consumer drives and are the media that actually store your data. Made of glass or some form of alloy and coated with a magnetic layer, they can store anything up to 4TB of data.

Head assembly: Data from your drives’ platters is read by means of a series of read and write heads. While in operation, these heads are not actually in contact with the surface of the platters. In fact, they ‘fly’ nanometers above the surface of the disk, reading and writing data. Typically a drive will have 2 heads per platter, so a large capacity drive with 3 platters will be paired up with 6 heads, one for each side of each platter. If these heads fail physically or the drive is dropped or knocked over, the drive can experience a ‘head crash’ where the heads no longer fly over the platters, but instead make contact with the surface and destroy your data at a few thousand revolutions per minute.

Firmware: Your drive runs its own mini operating system in order to deal with all of the data and operations required to access it. Most of this firmware is stored on the platters. A small portion is stored on the PCB, which is required when the drive starts up. Firmware can go wrong, leading to inaccessibility of your data. Unfortunately hard drive firmware is not similar to your mobile phone or tablet—you cannot just update or reflash it. Each drive has its own unique modules and parameters and is highly complex in nature.

Now that we understand the basic components of a hard drive let’s look at some common failures and symptoms you might experience, determine which component could be causing the problem, and see if we can tackle some of these problems DIY style.

If Your Drive Isn’t Spinning Up At AllP

This is the one instance where you have a relatively good chance of resurrecting your drive if you’re prepared to put in some time and effort. If the drive does absolutely nothing when you apply power to it (no noises at all), it is 99% a PCB problem. With older drives, you could sometimes find a matching PCB from another matching drive, swap it over, and voila. However, on new drives, technology and architecture have changed and each drive contains microcode unique to the drive it’s attached to. Simply swapping the PCB with a matching, working equivalent has almost no chance of working and can be outright dangerous to your data.

There are two main causes of failure here, either a TVS diode (fuse) has shorted due to overvoltage, or a vital component on the PCB has failed. Hard drive PCBs often have two TVS diodes which act as fuses to protect your drive in the event of a power spike. There will most likely be two of these: one for the 5v and one for the 12v rail. If you accidentally plugged in the wrong power adapter to your external drive, or you experienced a power surge, a TVS diode might have sacrificed itself. If the shorted TVS diode is the only casualty and the rest of the PCB components are OK, then simply removing the shorted diode is enough to bring the drive back to life.

You can test this with a multimeter—if the diode reads zero ohms, or close to it, then it has indeed shortened. When shorted these diodes often have a noticeable burnt smell and might have visible burn damage. Note that when a TVS diode is removed the drive is no longer protected, so ensure that the power supply you connect to the drive is correct and healthy.

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Pictured: A PCB with the TVS diodes highlighted

If the TVS diodes don’t smell burnt and show the correct digits when measuring them, then the problem is the PCB itself. A replacement PCB is required, but not just a straight swap. There is an 8 pin ROM chip on most PCBs that contains unique firmware info that is required to start up the drive. This needs to be moved from the old PCB to the new in order for the replacement to work. Some hard drives, especially Western Digitals, do not have this 8 pin chip—the firmware is stored in the main controller which is virtually impossible to move.

If you want to replace the PCB then you’ll need to fine a matching replacement and have the ROM chip moved. There are many online providers that will sell you a matching PCB. Some of them even offer to move the ROM chip for you, saving you the hassle of soldering and possibly damaging the chip. If the PCB was the only damaged component and the drive’s internals are OK, then after the replacement and ROM swap, your drive should be up and running again. Another PCB-related item to check are the head contacts. Sometimes they corrode with time, but are easily cleaned with a rubber eraser.

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Pictured: The contacts on a PCB can cause problems when they become tarnished like this.

If Your Drive Is Spinning Up and Making Clicking Noises

This is a serious failure and indicates a failed head or heads. It could also mean that your drive has suffered from platter damage if a head crash has occurred. Either way, this is a job for the pros. The drive will need to be opened in a clean room environment in a lab and a replacement head assembly fitted in order to try and recover your data. If your drive is clicking, it’s best power it off and leave it in this state until you can send it to a professional recovery company. Powering it up in this state could degrade the disk further, to the extent that it’s no longer recoverable.

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Pictured: A hard drive that experienced a head crash and made a deep scratch. This can render a drive unrecoverable.

If Your Drives Spins Ups and Is Detected by Your Computer, But Hangs When You Try to Access It

This usually means that the magnetic media is degraded. Basically, there are a large amount of bad sectors that the drive is trying to read, failing to do so, and hanging. This is a common problem that occurs over time and can be worked around, but only with professional data recovery equipment, more specifically a hard imager. If you look at the SMART values of the drive you’ll notice and large amount of reallocated sectors to confirm your suspicions. If the data is important then send it off to the pros.

If you want to have a crack at it yourself (and risk making the problem worse or losing your data altogether) then you can try a software imager that can work around bad areas. Seeing that software commands ultimately goes through the BIOS, the effectiveness is limited. The best option if you want to go this route is a free Linux application called dd_rescue. It can skip bad areas and image in reverse.

If Your Drive Makes a Beeping Sound When You Power it Up

The beeping sounds you are hearing is the motor trying to spin the drive up and failing to do so. This is caused by one of two things, both serious mechanical failures. The most common is what’s known as stiction. The heads of your drive park either in the center or on a ramp at the edge of the drive when not in use. Remember, the heads don’t make contact with the data area of the platters, they fly just above. Sometimes, the heads can fail to park properly and the platters stop spinning with the heads still over the data area. Because of the extremely smooth surfaces of both the platters and heads, they literally stick to each other, hence the name stiction. The drive needs to be opened up in the lab, heads carefully removed and most likely replaced, definitely not a DIY job.

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Pictured: The head assembly with drive turned off and heads in the parked position. With stiction, they would be stuck somewhere on the platters.

The other cause could be seizure of the motor spindle. This is the spindle around which the platters rotate. It can become seized if the drive suffers a hard knock or drop. It’s not a particularly common fault, except for Seagate drives as they have a particularly fragile spindle. There are two ways for this problem to be resolved, both of which require pro intervention. Either the spindle can be replaced or the platters are moved to a new hard drive casing along with heads, PCB, the works.

If Your Drive Sounds Normal but is Not Detected, or is Detected as the Wrong Capacity

This normally indicates a problem with some area of the firmware. Either it’s not being read properly which could actually be head problem, or there is some corruption that needs to be resolved. A few years back there was a well-known bug with Seagate 7200.11 drives with firmware version SD15 known was the BSY bug. Googling this provide a wealth of info of the huge amount of failures were caused by this firmware glitch. There was a DIY solution for this particular problem, but with today’s drives there is nothing that the end user can do but to send your drive in for professional help.P

So, there are a few instances where you can attempt to recover your own data. If you’ve accidentally deleted your data then you might be in luck. If the drive is completely dead and won’t even power up then you could go the DIY PCB route if you wish to tinker. Other than that, if your drive is making unusual noises or acting in a peculiar manner, you’ll need to hand it over—to a data recovery professional. Remember, ANY attempts at data recovery are risky. If the data is important, take it directly to the professionals.

Article by Nick Parsons (8.02.13) from http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/02/diy-data-recovery-tricks-for-when-your-hard-drive-goes-belly-up/

Working-from-home Business Continuity Plan

Working from home, a key to BCPs

Somewhere in your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a section detailing what is expected from employees during a disaster. Unfortunately, many companies end up overlooking this aspect of their BCP and assume their staff knows what to do. This can lead to problems, as employees won’t necessarily perform the functions required to keep your company operating. Here are a few steps to take to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

Step 1 – Prepare

What good is a BCP if your employees don’t understand or even know about it? Saving your data and information is important during times of emergency, but so is making sure your employees can execute their day-to-day functions. Guarantee they understand what is expected from them during a disaster by explaining this in a dedicated meeting. This will also provide a forum for your staff to ask questions and better understand how they fit into the BCP as a whole.

Among the most important things to include in the formulation of any planning are clearly defined roles and open lines of communication. Everyone should know who they report to, as well as who his or her backup is. This will help ensure your company has all its bases covered if a disaster should strike.

Step 2 – Give them the right tools

You can’t expect employees to work from home during a disaster if they do not have the proper tools to succeed. Of course, these also have to be cost effective as well; it’s not feasible to simply hand out workstations to everyone to store at home in case of emergency. For starters, investing in cloud-based solutions will help make it possible to keep service interruptions to a minimum. Microsoft Office 365, for instance, lets users access its programs and files from anywhere and on any device. This means that, if your office is no longer accessible, staff can keep working on their existing projects at home from their own device.

Cloud-based VoIP is another tool that can keep employees up and running from home. These systems can make sure all calls to your office are forwarded to your employees’ cell phones. This allows for communication between your clients and employees to continue uninterrupted even if your office is closed.

Step 3 – Practice

Have each employee take a day to work from home so they are able to get hang of how the process will go if a disaster strikes. This will get them comfortable with the workings of everything, as well as seeing if there are any issues that crop up. Rarely, if ever, does anything go perfectly on the first attempt, so practicing before a disaster can help eliminate any problems that might occur during the real thing.

Make sure you take the time to review how it went with each employee. This will give you an opportunity to see how practical this aspect of your BCP is, and which areas can be made stronger. The idea of the exercise is to allow each employee to feel confident in his or her ability to work during a disaster, and to give you the reassurance that they understand their role as it relates to the wider BCP.

Step 4 – Be alert

Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on possible events that could force you to shut down your office, and make sure your staff is also aware of the situation. The more time they have to prepare to work from home, the more ready they will be. Of course, not every event is possible to predict ahead of time, but if the a blizzard is forecast or there have been protests nearby, alert your staff of the possibility that your BCP may go into effect.

A comprehensive Business Continuity Plan can be the difference between your business surviving or failing if a disaster occurs. Let our experts find a BCP that ensures your company can carry on through thick and thin.

This entry was posted in General Articles B and tagged 2015 BCP, business continuity plan, employees, plan, practice, staff, work from home,working remotely. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

Are your employees prepared for disaster?

Disasters can come in all shapes and sizes. No matter what happens, your business can be prepared by creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). It’s important for your BCP to address the roles of your staff members, so that they are able to assist in keeping the company running during these stressful occasions. Make sure your employees are always prepared by following these steps.

Step 1 – Prepare

What good is a BCP if your employees don’t understand or even know about it? Saving your data and information is important during times of emergency, but so is making sure your employees can execute their day-to-day functions. Guarantee they understand what is expected from them during a disaster by explaining this in a dedicated meeting. This will also provide a forum for your staff to ask questions and better understand how they fit into the BCP as a whole.

Among the most important things to include in the formulation of any planning are clearly defined roles and open lines of communication. Everyone should know who they report to, as well as who his or her backup is. This will help ensure your company has all its bases covered if a disaster should strike.

Step 2 – Give them the right tools

You can’t expect employees to work from home during a disaster if they do not have the proper tools to succeed. Of course, these also have to be cost effective as well; it’s not feasible to simply hand out workstations to everyone to store at home in case of emergency. For starters, investing in cloud-based solutions will help make it possible to keep service interruptions to a minimum. Microsoft Office 365, for instance, lets users access its programs and files from anywhere and on any device. This means that, if your office is no longer accessible, staff can keep working on their existing projects at home from their own device.

Cloud-based VoIP is another tool that can keep employees up and running from home. These systems can make sure all calls to your office are forwarded to your employees’ cell phones. This allows for communication between your clients and employees to continue uninterrupted even if your office is closed.

Step 3 – Practice

Have each employee take a day to work from home so they are able to get hang of how the process will go if a disaster strikes. This will get them comfortable with the workings of everything, as well as seeing if there are any issues that crop up. Rarely, if ever, does anything go perfectly on the first attempt, so practicing before a disaster can help eliminate any problems that might occur during the real thing.

Make sure you take the time to review how it went with each employee. This will give you an opportunity to see how practical this aspect of your BCP is, and which areas can be made stronger. The idea of the exercise is to allow each employee to feel confident in his or her ability to work during a disaster, and to give you the reassurance that they understand their role as it relates to the wider BCP.

Step 4 – Be alert

Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on possible events that could force you to shut down your office, and make sure your staff is also aware of the situation. The more time they have to prepare to work from home, the more ready they will be. Of course, not every event is possible to predict ahead of time, but if the a blizzard is forecast or there have been protests nearby, alert your staff of the possibility that your BCP may go into effect.

A comprehensive Business Continuity Plan can be the difference between your business surviving or failing if a disaster occurs. Let our experts find a BCP that ensures your company can carry on through thick and thin.

This entry was posted in General Articles C and tagged 2015Sep21_BusinessContinuity_C,BCP, business continuity plan, employees, plan, practice, QS_3, staff, work from home,working remotely. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

Business continuity planning implementation challenges

Businesswoman presenting to colleagues at a meeting

Business continuity planning (BCP) is critical to all companies regardless of size. If disaster were to strike, an effective BCP would protect your valuable data and prevent your company from falling on its knees. Yet the implementation of a BCP presents challenges in itself. You need to address the following issues to ensure that your organization is on the right track to build and maintain a successful business continuity plan.

Challenge #1: Prohibitive costs

Business continuity planning has become exponentially expensive as availability requirements increase. Many solutions require substantial investments on the installation and maintenance of additional hardware, software, and data center infrastructure. These requirements drive up the cost of business continuity, and many company owners are reluctant to invest in protective measures.

The solution
Instead of relying on costly physical servers to accommodate your backups, consider using efficient and affordable cloud computing solutions. You can transfer your important business files to the cloud and eliminate the expense of having to install and manage hardware infrastructure and software licenses.

Challenge #2: High complexity

Traditional business continuity planning is complex to implement, manage and execute. From managing the recovery infrastructure to updating disaster recovery documentation and testing the BCP to find and close potential loopholes, the prospect of embarking on a BCP project can be daunting, and the whole experience can prove time consuming. Combine with the pressure of your ordinary day-to-day duties, it can seem almost impossible to focus your attention on initiating a BCP.

The solution
With all this in mind, it makes more sense to hire a professional IT service provider to plan, implement, and execute your business continuity plan. This way you can leverage their experience and expertise to ensure that, in the event of a disaster, your company will be able to get back on its feet and resume business operations as quickly as possible.

Challenge #3: Lack of staff involvement

There are so many requirements to be considered in a business continuity plan. And the more employees your organization has, the more difficult it is to relay the essence of the plan for everyone to understand. Staff involvement isn’t an option – it’s an absolute necessity if you wish for a successful BCP implementation!

The solution
Depending on the size of your organization, you can either hold a company meeting to announce the essentials of your BCP, or schedule a meeting with key staff members who take an active role in the planning process. To create a long-lasting BCP program, you need to get everyone on the same page by emphasizing the importance of the plan in an easy-to-understand way.

Business continuity planning is one of the most important things you need to have in place. You never know when, or in what form, a disaster will strike – all the more reason to take a preventative approach to securing your company and all you’ve worked for.

Need a reliable partner to take care of all your business continuity planning needs? Get in touch with us today – we have exactly what you need to prepare and protect your company.

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Why cloud hosts work for business continuity

BusinessContinuity_June1_CBusinesses rely on an effective business continuity plan to carry them through the storm of disasters. Good continuity plans secure your critical data and keep your company up and running through interruptions of any kind. But having your in-house IT department manage data backup could spell disaster for your business – there’s a good chance that the data backup process will be misconfigured or insufficient. That’s where cloud hosts come in. You can offload key infrastructure components to a cloud hosting provider to simplify data backup.

Here are some reasons to consider cloud business continuity backup over internal backup.

Better uptime

Backing up to an internal drive or an external hard drive won’t completely secure data. If someone steals your computer, you lose the hard drive and the backup. Natural disasters or man-made errors will also likely destroy your backups. Your company could face expensive downtime if your backups are lost or damaged. 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 business continuity and 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 rise rapidly and slow down a website or other running systems. This is where a cloud hosting provider comes in. 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 for 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 backup data to the cloud, you will no longer have to worry about managing the frequency of your backups. Most cloud-hosted providers offer hourly, daily, monthly, 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 literally 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 the 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 – 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.

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Creating an effective business disaster plan

Creating an effective business disaster plan

BusinessContinuity_Mar09_AYou’ve been putting that business continuity plan off for months now, but you’ve finally decided to go through with it. You start by talking to members of your staff, partners and service providers. And it doesn’t take long to see that everyone has a different opinion about what to recover first when disaster strikes. The head of your IT department demands your servers are top priority, while your Vice President argues that without network security being reestablished pronto, your business is left vulnerable to even further damage. Who’s right? It may be difficult to decide. That’s why we’ve compiled these fundamental ideas to consider when drafting your business continuity plan.

Speak to many members of your organization

And not just your IT department – which may sound like a bit of an oxymoron coming from an IT provider’s blog. However, the reason behind this is simple. Suppose you have an IT staff member called Jane, who is responsible for a series of applications that automate your e-commerce system. If you call a business continuity meeting concerning to identify assets to prioritize during a disaster, what do you think Jane will say? She’ll likely point to her group of applications, since to her this is what she prioritizes and spends her days on. And it’s not just Jane; each staff member will probably voice that their particular job (whether that’s security, server maintenance or something entirely different) needs to be prioritized. It’s human nature to think of your responsibility and role first. We all do it.

The key is to get more than one opinion. It’s not a bad idea to start with the leaders of your company, and then work your way down. Leaders generally think in a broader sense about your organization as a whole, rather than one particular facet of it.

Consider where your business is going

When developing your business continuity plan, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about your business as it is today. While you’ll draft your plan in the present, it needs to be created with the future in mind. For example, if you’re considering joining the Cloud or virtualizing your servers in the next year or so, how is this going to impact your plan? It’s smart to think of this sooner rather than later, as it could cause a major shift in your priorities. If you start deploying your business continuity plan but then have to switch gears further down the line, it’ll likely cost your company a lot of money.

Examine the interdependency of your business

Remember to connect the dots between your IT department and business processes. For instance, if your email system can’t run without the use of a particular IT application, it will do no good for you to have your email system as a priority 1 issue and that IT application as a priority 3. In this scenario, the IT application would need the same priority as the email system – if not higher, or else your email system will simply not work.

The point is to map out the interdependencies of your business processes and IT, so that you know what depends on what. That way you’re not left in a pickle when disaster strikes.

Need help getting started with your business disaster plan? Contact us today to learn how we can help.