IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

Is Your Company Data Ready For An IT Disaster Recovery Test?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sun, Nov 24, 2013

Silent Data CorruptionUnfortunately, many companies that experience an IT “data loss event” also discover, at this critical time, that their backed-up data is corrupted and not restorable.  The fact is that data can become corrupted during the back-up process.  Therefore, most managed service IT providers offering back-up solutions for clients will perform data integrity checks at the time IT data is sent off site.  Though this is a good practice, and can provide a level of comfort for businesses, the truth is that data can also become corrupted over time while residing on spinning disk drives at an off-site location.  This type of occurrence, known in the industry as “silent data corruption,” is literally caused by the rotting of the storage media where the data is housed.  So even though businesses may feel they are “good” with their data backup, that actually may not be the case.

This is why IT data restorability “dry runs” or “backup plans” are critical.  Businesses need to verify on a periodic and regular basis, that the data they are backing up is actually recoverable.  Though these tests can be hardware intensive and time consuming, they are critical.  Business owners need to know that if they experience an IT “data loss event,” their data will be restored and their applications will resume in a reliable and predictable fashion.  The only way to be sure of this happening is to conduct periodic disaster recovery plan.

There are some sophisticated IT data protection solutions in the marketplace that can automatically verify the viability of data, not only when the data is written for the first time, but also on an ongoing basis.  This approach enables companies not only to detect and protect against data corruption during the initial backup process, but also to guard against this “bit rot” scenario over time. Having a disaster preparedness plan that includes silent data corruption is a key element in a disaster continuity plan!

The IT best practice is to transfer data from any spinning disk drives before the five-year time frame expires.  The probability of “bit rot” occurring goes up dramatically after five years.  Interestingly enough, good old fashion “tape” is the best approach for storing data for longer than five years.

Do an IT data “dry run” restore within your company. Or talk to your managed IT service provider about doing a disaster recovery test with you.  There would be nothing worse than experiencing a flood or fire at your company’s main location, and losing everything, including all of your data, true?  Well maybe there would be. What if, when you went to leverage your IT data backup to get your company back on its feet, you discovered the data was corrupted and unusable?  You could literally be out of business at that point.  Don’t let that happen to your company. Download our guide to preparing your own Disaster Recovery Plan:

 

5 Steps To Prepare Disaster Recovery

Topics: Disaster Recovery, IT Backups, IT Data Disaster, IT Best Practice, backup plan, disaster recovery plan

The Difference between IT Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Wed, Oct 02, 2013


IT Disaster Recovery PlanIT downtime is frustrating and downright maddening since it can so easily be avoided. As a small business owner you can’t afford to lose business and customers because of failed computer systems. That’s why you need to know the different between disaster recovery and business continuity.

A lot of business owners erroneously believe that because they have a copy of their data somewhere that they must already have a business continuity plan in place and could be back up and running again fast. That notion is simply not true.

First of all, the word “disaster” indicates a situation where business systems are no longer functioning, or where data has been corrupted, lost or otherwise made inaccessible. That could be something as simple as a server experiencing a non-recoverable failure (thereby corrupting or deleting the data on it) or an office building being destroyed by a natural disaster (fires, floods, hurricanes.)  It could also be caused by a cyber-attack, for instance a disgruntled employee or any number of other unforeseen, unplanned events.

In many cases, if the data wasn’t backed up properly, or if a business continuity system wasn’t put in place, several days or even weeks can go by while data is recovered and IT systems are rebuilt and restored. Essentially, business continuity systems are proactive, where disaster recovery systems are reactive.

For example, having a second Internet connection would be part of a good business continuity plan if you’re highly dependent on e-mail and Internet access. If your main Internet provider was out, you’d have a way to keep working uninterrupted.  Cloud computing is also often part of a smart business continuity plan. If your data, e-mail, files and applications are hosted in the cloud, employees could continue to work remotely from home or in another location if your office building was destroyed or otherwise inaccessible due to a natural disaster, fire, evacuation, gas leak, etc.

Smart Business Continuity Solutions

These days you have several options to help keep your computers running and your information available 24/7/365. Storage solutions that contain backed-up, redundant hard drives, like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SAN) storage devices, help you recover in failure situations. Your users never see that a drive failed. Their data and applications are always available, even if if hardware breaks.

Many companies don’t have the latest hardware and software installed, however, it’s important to upgrade your systems in order to take advantage of new solutions. You need to have a plan for dealing with natural disasters, hackers, viruses, legal threats and new rules governing data protection.

With the Cloud gaining in acceptance, many small businesses have a backup copy of their files at their office and also stream all of their data offsite to a Cloud data backup facility, protecting the company data from any physical disruption at the company office. 

As the Owner, if you are unsure or uneasy of where your company data is regarding backup disaster recovery or from a business continuity perspective, you should download ANP’s five step guide on how to develop and maintain a disaster recovery plan.  Or take a more proactive approach and sit in our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Webinar scheduled for this month.  

5 Steps To Prepare Disaster Recovery

Topics: Disaster Recovery, business continuity plan, cloud-based services

Is Your Computer Support Guy Treating You Like A “Bad Date?”

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Wed, Oct 02, 2013

IT Support NerdIs your computer support guy treating you like a bad date?

  • Not returning your calls fast enough…
  • Constantly missing deadlines…
  • Not fixing things right the first time…
  • Never following up on your requests?
  • Promises made and not kept?

It just amazes me how unreliable and arrogant some IT services companies are…

When you call them for help, you end up talking to their voice mail. When you finally get them on the phone, they make you wait hours – even days – before they actually get your problem resolved. Sometimes it never seems to get fixed and it’s easier to find a work-around or simply fix it yourself than to call your IT provider!

Even then, a lot of them take longer than they promised, nickel and dime you over everything and, as a final insult, they act like they’re doing YOU the favor! Every time you call your IT service company you are guaranteed an invoice, but not necessarily a resolution.  They often use their techno speak to confuse you, and respond when they feel like it, its never about your requirements and more about their schedule. 

You don’t need a computer nerd to act like a bad date; what you need is a new approach to your IT support.  The old Time & Materials approach is no longer effective for your growing small business. I spend most of my time speaking with our clients and prospects; the vast majority of business owners I speak to already have an IT service provider relationship in place, however, the business owner is exasperated with how poorly their IT provider is treating them.  You need IT support but you don’t need an unresponsive Time & Materials provider, there is a better way, a new way. 

There Is A Better Way to Receive IT Support for your Business

By changing your IT support approach from reactive (where you are waiting for a problem and then reactively calling your IT support guy to solve an issue) to proactive (where you rely upon a new IT support company to proactively manage your IT computer systems and software.  This new proactive approach can actually reduce the frustrating breakdowns and bring your network back to a reliable and highly available network you once had.

Better yet, the proactive approach can be purchased as a monthly fixed fee that you can budget for and rely upon to solve all of your network issues.  As the owner you no longer have to balance the cost of a potential T & M service call vs. accepting the IT frustration of a lingering IT problem.

With this new IT Support approach your IT Support provider is financially incented to get your network running so well that he never has to stop everything and be interrupted by an unexpected problem in your network.  Imagine an IT relationship with your new IT solutions partner where you both are working together for a mutual goal; a 100% percent available network, no downtime, no problems, happy and productive employees.

This new approach is called IT Outsourcing, or perhaps you have heard it called a Managed Service; the IT solutions company is called a Managed Service Provider (MSP.)  You can outsource your workstations and servers, or your Wide Area Network and your Local Area Network, your disaster recovery systems and even your phone system.

There is no longer a reason to feel like your IT support is a bad date that never ends, you can find an IT Managed Service provider that will treat you like you felt on your first date with your significant other: goose bumps! There is a new way and a better way to purchase your companies IT Support.

Want To Learn More: You can sign up for a one-hour webinar and learn how Managed Services might help your company lower your IT costs, improve your network and application availability and make your employees more productive! Learn how IT Managed Services can improve your business!

What a Business Owner should know about the Cloud

Not Ready To Watch a Webinar yet?

If not, I’d at least like to give you a copy of my new free report, “6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies For Your Business.” Even if you aren’t ready to watch a webinar right now; this report will give you some important strategies for you to consider regarding your IT.

 6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Support, Business IT, IT Outsourcing, IT Solutions, Managed Service Provider, Disaster Recovery

What Is Your Company's IT Fitness Level? | IT Assessment

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Wed, Aug 14, 2013

Will Your IT Practices Pass The Physical?

IT Fitness Assessment

As I was preparing for a 100 mile backpacking trip with my youngest son this summer, I realized it was time for me to take a harder look at my own personal fitness. I had gained a few extra pounds, I was not in great aerobic shape, and wondered how healthy my heart was. The thought of being out in the middle of a desert in New Mexico without access to quick medical help, I knew it was time toassess my own fitness level before placing a 50 LB pack on my back and heading out to the wilderness.

After a stress test, which turned out better than I expected, and a discussion with my doctor regarding how much weight I needed to loose and a plan to get into aerobic shape; I had a 6 months of activities to complete to meet my goals. I successfully lost the weight (plus another 15 pounds after the hike.) There is no question in my mind that taking a proactive and consistent approach to improving my health for the trip was the right path to take and as it turned out, my son and I had a blast and have safely returned home with some great memories.

I am sure you know where I am heading with this... Your own company’s IT fitness level is much like your own personal fitness level.  Personally, I had let my fitness slip away and although I was not lying in a hospital bed, I was certainly not in the best shape.  IT fitness, like our own health, can get away from us because there are so many other things to focus on in a business that before you know it there could be a virus outbreak, a dead Laptop or a missing back up tape. Just like our own personal health, our company’s IT health needs a proactive and consistent approach to remain healthy and avoid disease. You need to keep an eye on your IT support!

So what are a few things you could do to keep your Company IT Fitness level in great shape?

It’s honestly very easy, the trick is in the consistency at which you do the following things. You already know that occasional and sporadic exercise will not improve your overall personal fitness, the same is true with these IT fitness principles, they will only work if you are methodical and consistent with their application.  So let’s take a look at some of the things you can do that would be at the top of my list:

IT Fitness Goal #1

Stay committed to backing up your files at least every month. Ideally, every week and also every year. I wish I had a dollar for every business owner who told me they thought their company data was being backed up.  A back up is like an
insurance policy, you don’t want to use it, but you are grateful to have it when you need it.  There are so many inexpensive ways to get your data backed up, consider your accounting data first and work through a list until everything you feel you will need again is backed up, and ideally taken off site.  Business Continuity is a function the Owner should be interested in ensuring. You can easily devlop an IT Disaster Recovery Plan for your company. 

Your Company data can be streamed off site, so if there is a fire or a flood you know you have everything in a safe place.  With the price of USB connected disk drive being less than $200 dollars, you can probably get almost all of your company data on one portable drives. Wouldn’t you sleep better at night if you knew your company data was backed up in a secure location?

 IT Fitness Goal #2

Turn on automatic Windows updates.  With so many Microsoft patches coming out every two weeks, you simply can’t afford to not keep up with Microsoft security updates.  By keeping your PC up to date, your Virus Scanning software does not need to work nearly as hard. It’s easy to do and its free, so make certain every PC has auto updates turned on.

Keeping up with your personal physical fitness is a good thing but performing safe IT Fitness can be just as important. So, let’s get going… In the next blog I will continue my list of easy things you can do to insure your Company IT Fitness is in great health and be sure to register for our August Webinar!

 

7 Signs That Its Time To Call For Computer Support

 

 

Topics: IT Support, Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity

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