When it comes to running a successful business, the last thing an owner or manager wants to think about is a disaster that could cause their business to go bankrupt. While there are many things you can do to minimize the potential fallout from any disaster, the most important is implementing a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that covers more than just data backup. If you are struggling to figure out what to do, this article may help.
Here are five tips to help ensure that your business is fully ready for the next disaster.
1. Backup everything While it can be tempting to only backup the most important data and programs, it can be a chore to identify what is deemed to be important. Who knows, a file that is non-essential today may become essential in the future. If it is lost due to a disaster, this could prove to be a problem.
It would be a good idea to look for a backup solution that covers all data and programs. But, having a full backup solution isn't enough, you also need to ensure that recovery is easy and can be implemented quickly.
2. Look into tiered recovery Establishing a tiered recovery method means identifying the value and importance of existing systems and utilizing a recovery method that meets needs. It would be a good idea to identify mission critical systems and adopt a recovery method that can have these systems up and running as quickly as possible. From there you can tier different systems and match a recovery method. For example, archived files are likely not needed right away, so they can be recovered at a later date, using a slower recovery method.
3. Keep copies of all keys and licenses With the amount of software and programs businesses use on a daily basis growing, it would be a good idea to keep copies of the activation keys (the string of digits and letters you enter to activate the full version of software) and purchased licenses.
While many of these are now distributed electronically through email, there are still software developers that distribute keys by mail or with the physical install CDs. If you lose the codes in a fire, you will be out of luck and have to purchase the software again. This is an extra charge you likely don't want.
4. Pick the right recovery locations The best recovery plans offer numerous backup solutions which are hosted in different locations. A good provider knows this and will utilize data storage centers as far apart as possible. If you choose to backup your own data, it would not be a good idea to keep the backups in the office.
Similarly, if you are preparing for a big disaster, you likely have physical locations that you can move to if your main business location is damaged or destroyed. Optimal plans will have more than one location identified, and have them as far apart as possible. This will minimize the chances of losing full operations and increase your business's ability to bounce back quicker.
5. Match your recovery plan to your business There are so many different backup and recovery options that it can be tough to pick one. The best course of action is to look at your systems and how they work. If you operate strictly offline, a cloud based backup solution likely isn't your best bet. Or, if you operate fully in the cloud, a physical tape or hard disk backup may not be optimal.
If you are looking to beef up, or establish a disaster recovery plan, try working with an IT partner like us, who can help you find the optimal solution that can meet your needs and budget.
As a business owner or manager, you know that running a business is not easy. There is always something that can put your business in harm's way or hurt your bottom line; something that needs your attention. This is simply a part of business. But there are steps you can take to minimize any adverse effects from both the external and internal environment. One of those steps is the adoption of a Business Continuity Plan.
Some companies are hesitant to adopt a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) because of the perceived costs and complexity involved. We won't deny that plans are usually on the complex side, but there are good reasons as to why your company should adopt one. Here's five.
1. Your business will be seen as more valuable Banks, venture capitalists and other investors tend to air on the side of caution, and as such will usually look to businesses that appear to be stable as more viable investment vehicles. Companies with a BCP are often seen to be more valuable, as they can address diverse situations better than those without. As a result, they will make the investor more money over time.
2. Compliance Big companies in a number of industries have had continuity plans for years and many have started to look for suppliers/vendors with continuity plans. Beyond that, some industries and government bodies have made BCP a requirement. If you are a vendor, supplier or even in specific industries, it is a good idea to have one in order for business to run smoothly.
3. Potentially lower insurance premiums Operating a business is filled with risks, and business managers are often looking for ways to minimize it. One way includes the purchase of insurance - many industries and situations require you to carry it. Generally, insurance providers will give more favorable rates to companies that take steps to minimize risk. A solid BCP will go a long way in showcasing how risk-averse your company is, which could lead to lower rates or at the very least, stable rates.
4. More efficient communication Developing a BCP involves constant, company-wide communication in order for it to be successful. For many businesses, this involves collaboration between team members who don't normally work together on a regular basis.
A BCP also fosters communication plans during disasters, both within the organization - most employees have a role, and will need to work together to pull through - and outside - customers, suppliers and other stakeholders will be contacting you. If your employees know how to communicate what needs to be done, effects of the disaster will be minimized.
5. Survival Recent natural disasters around the globe have highlighted that businesses without a plan will most likely be forced out of business. Having a BCP will minimize the chances of this, while preparing your business for survival.
If you are looking to implement a business continuity plan, or improve on an already existing one, please contact us today. We may have a solution for you.
One of the major objectives of almost every business is to remain operational. From time-to-time there might be factors, such as a natural disaster, that could put your company at risk. To mitigate this threat, companies have started to adopt a Business Continuity Plan with the aim of being able to recover from such disastrous events.
While a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) can be complicated, and comprised of many different objectives, the main reason companies include this in their business strategy is to build up resilience. Disasters of many kinds can result in either lost data, sales or even business. While a BCP won't prevent large-scale disasters, it will help your business recover quicker.
When looking at how resilient your business is, there are three main aspects to consider.
RTO RTO stands for Recovery Time Objective and is the time period from the beginning of the disaster to recovery of operations. This number, or time period, will be different for every company. For example, companies that operate online stores will likely have a short RTO, as they rely on 24/7 uptime to conduct business and sales.
In general the RTO is an objective, one that employees and stakeholders should strive for. Having one can help planners identify potential problem areas along with critical functions that must be recovered and any preparations that will be necessary. If a business does not address, or identify a set time to recovery they could see an unnecessary increase in recovery times, or worse lost profits.
RPO RPO stands for Recovery Point Objective and represents the amount of data a business is willing, or can afford, to lose. The easiest way to figure this out is to look at your systems and think about how much data or information you personally can lose before being unable to do your job. From there, you can work out the frequency with which you should back up your systems.
For example: If you figure that you can lose a day's worth of data, then your backup should be done on a daily basis. If you currently back up your data or systems once a week, and figure you can only miss a day, then RPO helps you realize this is not enough and that you need a system or plan that better meets your needs.
The difference between RTO and RPO is that RTO is a broad process that covers the whole Business Continuity timeline, while RPO is focused on data and backup.
ROI When looking at different Business Continuity systems, it is always a good idea to calculate the ROI, or Return on Investment. You can calculate the cost of the integrating any plan, time to implement and recovery, expected value it can bring your business and avoided losses. This will give you a pretty good picture on whether current systems are strong enough, and if new alternatives are better.
By figuring out the time you expect to recover, how often you should back up and the total ROI of proposed, or existing, systems you can gain a clearer picture of how resilient your company is.
If you're looking to make your company a little more resilient, why not get in touch with us? We are happy to sit down and discuss your options with you.
When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, many businesses in the US felt the effects due to service outages. This well publicized storm prompted many businesses, who were not hit or directly affected, to look into developing some form of plan to help them remain operational during any disaster situation. This practice is commonly referred to as Business Continuity, and for companies just looking at how to integrate this practice, there are a few things you should prepare before you launch.
Here's four questions you should answer when looking into adopting a Business Continuity plan.
1. What systems need to be recovered first? A good idea is to request each department/role list their essential systems and rank them in the order they need them back online in order to do their jobs. From here, you can compare answers and rank them in priority. For example, If all roles say they need Internet connection back online first, you know that the Internet is the first system that needs to be recovered.
2. What do we need to assure customers of stability? For the majority of businesses, the customer is the lifeblood. However, most customers will only stick around for a limited amount of time before going to a competitor if your business can't meet their needs. To keep customers loyal during a time of disaster, you need to prove you are either stable, or working to get there. Some examples of this could be a backup site with basic functionality that can take the place of your main website if it goes down.
3. What do business partners require? Your business partners are just as important as your customers and are often the link between the two. With partners, you often have set requirements that you need to meet in order to continue order fulfillment and shipment. You need to be aware of what these are and the related systems. After all, how are you going to get your product to your customers?
4. Are there any contractual requirements with vendors? Businesses that work with suppliers or vendors often have contractual obligations such as payment due on a certain date, or a set product order volume to fulfill the contract. As with business partners, you need to be clear on what these obligations are, and how you meet them. For example, if you pay a supplier on the 10th of every month, most will expect payment on the 10th, regardless of if you are operational or not.
Once you have the answers you needed you can take a step back and try to come up with a timeline of how long continuity actions should take and what your priorities are. From here, you can draft an actual plan, or look for vendors that can work with your systems and provide a continuity plan or service that meets your needs.
If you are looking for a business continuity system for your business please give us a call, we may have a solution that fits with your business.
One of the biggest storms in recent memory hit the Eastern US in early November causing widespread destruction. There is always a lesson to learn from events like these, regardless of your location. For businesses, the storm made owners and managers pause and wonder if they are prepared for such a large scale event. They are forgetting to look at the smaller disasters that can be equally devastating. One such potential problem revolves around essential passwords, and who manages them.
Search for Terry Childs online and you'll find a number of articles about a former Network Administrator for the city of San Francisco who is currently in jail for supposedly doing his job. His job, as a network administrator, was to manage the city's network. When he was asked by his boss for the passwords to critical parts of the network, he refused on the grounds that the request went against the established network policy.
Issues like this: One employee or vendor in control of vital passwords, can pose a big problem to companies, especially during times of disaster. Imagine if you work with an administrator who is based in New York, and they lost power during Sandy. What could you do if your network crashed, or you needed access to your system and someone else has all the passwords?
The most crucial factor is you shouldn't trust one person or organization with passwords to vital systems. We don't mean personal passwords to systems, we mean passwords to vital systems, like servers or Internet connections. If one person has the passwords, there's just too much risk. If they are disgruntled, they have the power to do some serious damage, and if they are injured or are no longer alive, you'll face untold amounts in lost profit, and fees in recovering passwords and information.
There are a number of things you can do to mitigate problems like these.
- Keep a password list - It could be a good idea to keep a physical list of the more important passwords. This is an important document, so it's a good idea to not leave this one lying around. If you have a safety deposit box or safe in the office you can put the list here.
- Set passwords to the position, not the employee - Many companies will often give passwords to one person who will be in charge of these. When they advance, or if they switch roles, they will often take a password with them. Instead, look at organizing this a different way around: Assign a password to the position rather than an individual so that when they leave the person filling their role is given this password instead.
- Assign a person to be in charge of passwords - This is a good idea, especially if you work with Managed Service Providers. A person of authority within your organization should be the main contact person, and they should have copies of all passwords given to outside companies.
- Change passwords regularly - To avoid having employees steal things it's a good idea to change your passwords on a regular basis. If an employee leaves a position and is in charge of an important password, you should take steps to change this scenario even if you trust the person.
- Create the right policy - If you are going to share passwords, or have a limited number of people who know them, it's a good idea to create a policy that clearly defines: what position has access to what; what happens when someone leaves; how to recover passwords; how many backups will be kept; how and when the password is to be shared. Basically you want to ensure you aren't caught flat footed. With employees, confidentiality agreements that explicitly state what they can and can't share and the consequences of breaching the policy should also be clearly defined and followed.
- Pick who to trust - Important passwords shouldn't be shared with everyone, and you should take steps to vet the trustworthiness of the person or company you will be giving passwords to. If you have an established sharing process, and a vendor you're considering working with is pushing a policy that is different from yours, it may be a good idea to look for someone whose policies are closer to yours, or who can work around your policies.
Imagine getting up on a Monday after a great long weekend spent with the family, driving to the office, only to find the building on fire. Most people would be dumbfounded, or feel a profound sense of loss. If you have a Disaster Recovery (DR) system, you wouldn’t have to worry, (well not as much anyway), as could rest assured that your documents and systems would be up and running soon, with little to no loss of important data.
Here are four ways to ensure your DR plan is sufficient and company is disaster-ready.
Are your systems compliant? Many DR systems are licensed, and it’s important to ensure that these licences are both up-to-date and supported by all necessary backup systems. If you’ve added or changed components like a server or software, but not upgraded the relevant licenses, chances are your systems won’t be covered when disaster strikes. If this is the case, when you go to retrieve the backup, you’ll just get a license error; your data can’t be retrieved.
Another issue with DR software is that it’s often not used, lying dormant for years. You should regularly check and ensure the software meets modern compliance standards, is up-to-date and licenses have not expired. You should also be aware of how the software you use integrates and interacts with the DR software. For example, an upgrade to a new email server, may not communicate well with your DR software.
What’s the status of your backup server? As most DR plans usually involve a separate server from day-to-day servers, it’s important to ensure that they are functioning properly, usually by having the vendor test them. It’s also equally important to communicate with the vendors or manufacturers of the servers to ensure that the correct software/hardware licenses are in place and cover the function. If they aren’t, you could risk legal action or being fined.
Test regularly Regular tests are an integral part of a properly functioning DR plan. You need to conduct tests on at least a yearly basis to ensure all systems involved in the DR plan function well. From these tests, observe any function that performed poorly, or not at all, and take steps to fix or replace it.
Work with a knowledgeable partner DR plans and systems can be a complicated, almost messy aspect of business. While this may be, DR is crucial to the survival of a business after a disaster, and shouldn’t be treated lightly. To get it right liaise with DR experts to create and maintain a plan that meets your needs.
If you would like help with either implementing or improving your DR plan, please contact us, we may have a solution for you.
In many parts of the world, the Internet is quick enough to allow businesses to operate solely in the cloud with relatively few problems. There are however issues with many Internet connections, and at times the service can slow to a crawl, leaving many managers wondering what is going on and how to fix it.
Have you noticed that from time to time the Internet is a lot slower than it should be? If so, this could be because something is hogging all the bandwidth, which is the rate at which data is transferred in and out of one connection. Here are six of the most common bandwidth hogs.
- YouTube. If you allow employees to watch YouTube or connect to other streaming services, and they are using it frequently, you’ll notice a significant decrease in overall Internet speed. Some companies have noted that 40 staff using YouTube will account for over half of the total bandwidth usage.
- FTP sites. Some companies run FTP sites that host essential files that employees can download. When more employees are downloading/uploading files to the FTP site there’s less bandwidth available for other operations, so the Internet will be slower.
- P2P. P2P covers a large number of aspects including video conferencing and sharing of files via programs such as BitTorrent. All P2P services use an incredibly large amount of bandwidth when in operation, slowing the Internet to a point where speeds from 10 years ago were faster.
- Online backup. Backing up essential files will capitalize bandwidth leaving very little for other operations. It’s a good idea to conduct backups after office hours to minimize interruptions.
- Encryption. In certain industries regulatory bodies require a certain level of encryption, or for companies to take certain steps to secure data. Any extra encryption or security features will slow sites down, however this usually cannot be avoided.
- Spam/Virus/Malware. As many scams aim at stealing information the main way this is done is by sending the information over an Internet connection, that is your Internet connection. If you have viruses or other security threats you can guarantee that your Internet will be slower.
- conduct a virus scan to look for malware;
- ensure your computers aren’t backing up and if they are schedule the backup for later;
- turn off or block any and all sharing services, and schedule video conferencing for times when bandwidth isn’t needed by other functions; and,
- limit the bandwidth assigned to YouTube and other streaming services.
Natural disasters happen. Small business owners are well aware of this and many have taken steps to ensure that potential damage to their business is minimized and they can remain operational - a practice commonly known as business continuity. The vast majority of small business owners ensure that their data is backed up. While this is a good practice, it likely won’t be enough to remain operational during or after a disaster.
Here are five things you should be doing, aside from backing up your data, to ensure you're ready for anything.
- Where to work. One of the first things you should consider is where you're going to work if your office is inaccessible. Hotels, convention centers or other office buildings are viable locations. Whichever location you pick, you should pick at least two different places, as far apart as possible. You should also be sure to inform your staff and include maps of the routes to the locations you’ve chosen.
- Replacement equipment. It’s incredibly important that you know exactly what equipment you use and how integral it is to operations. For mission critical equipment (equipment your company absolutely can’t work without) you need to have a plan in place as to how you can quickly replace lost equipment, the cost of it and replacement time. For less important equipment, you should have a couple of vendors in mind.
- Communication systems. During adverse business conditions it’s vitally important that you and your employees are able to communicate both with one another and with your clients. You should look into a communication system that’s flexible, can be established wherever you are and allows you to keep your numbers. VoIP is a great system, telecommuting is another option as well.
- Coordinate staff. You’re staff drive your business, without them, your business likely won’t be able to run. With the continuity plan you develop, it’s important that you have hard and soft copies of the plan that are accessible to all staff, and staff know their role in the plan. When your plan is enacted you need to contact your staff and ensure that there aren’t any problems.
- Access to critical documents. If you have a good backup location, can set up equipment quickly and staff know their roles you may think your plan is perfect. You’re missing one key element: access to documents, employees won’t be able to work without them. It’s important to ensure that you can access your data backups, which means you should probably keep copies offsite and in the cloud if possible.
Many companies in North America, the UK and Australia tend to adopt an almost invincible point of view, they believe that disaster can never strike their business and are stunned when it does. This is a dangerous viewpoint to take, especially for small businesses who stand to be affected the most from any disaster.
When a disaster strikes, 25% or more of small businesses affected will fail. Why do they fail? It’s not because of defects in the physical location, it’s mainly because they didn’t take the necessary steps to ensure that their business’s technology and related data is protected.
Because the modern business relies so heavily on technology, it’s essential that businesses have a business continuity plan (BCP) to minimize the loss of vital data, or in many cases, not lose any data at all. This is an important asset that will, one day, minimize losses felt due to any type of disaster. Small business owners know this, but many don’t know where to start. If you’re one of these owners, here are six tips on how you can prepare.
- Establish a backup regime. Data backup is one of the most important things you can do, be sure to regularly backup your corporate files, servers and user data files. A truly prepared company will have backups in a number of locations that can be easily accessed.
- Ensure solid communication platforms. One of the first things people do in a disaster is try to communicate with each other to ensure everything is ok. You can guarantee that some customers and employees will be calling to check in, so you need to have communication lines that work.
- Train employees. A BCP plan is useless if your employees don’t know their role in the implementation of the plan. It’s important that you train your employees on their roles, and that you communicate with them your expectations.
- Contingency plans. Like storing your data backups, you should set up contingency plans with the involved parties in your business. You should know where to go to do your banking, what your vendors’ or suppliers’ plans are and how they affect you, and most importantly: you should have a few locations where you can set up your business if the physical property is damaged.
- Review and practice all plans. Everything changes at one time or another, maybe an employee leaves or you adopt a new computer system. This makes it important to periodically practice your plans, review what worked and what didn’t, and update accordingly.
- Work with an expert. Planning for disaster is a tough thing to do well, considering all the elements to focus on and work with. To ensure a viable plan for your business, working with a recovery expert can help ensure that you get a plan that works for you while taking the stress off.
Computers are the backbone to almost every company. We use them to conduct business and for storage of data among other things. If something were to happen to the computers, a devastating virus for example, you could risk losing your whole business if you haven’t backed up your data. To prevent this, you should be doing so.
Here are the three main types of backup you can utilize in your company.
1. On-site backup. On-site storage is the practice of keeping a backup of your data in the same location that the original data is stored. If you have an external hard drive that you back your computer onto and it stays in the office, this is a form of on site storage. The main advantage to this is that if you need to restore a system, the data is right there and the backup can be started immediately. The main disadvantage is that if there’s a disaster, your backup data will most likely be gone.
2. Off-site backup. Off-site storage is similar to on-site storage, typically using the same form of hard drive to backup your data. The main difference is that drives are stored in a remote location, away from your business. The upside to this method is that if something happens at your physical location, your data is safe. The downside to this is that it takes time to travel to the storage location, retrieve the data, backup your system and take it back.
3. Online backup. Online backup utilizes the Internet to allow you to backup your data. The backups are kept on hosted servers (the cloud) and can be accessed through an application. The main pro of this method is that you can quickly and easily recover your data from any location, as long as you have access to the Internet. The downside is that if you have a lot of data, backups will use a lot of bandwidth, thus slowing your Internet speed down.
Regardless of the method, you should be backing up your business data at regular intervals. The best solution is to backup your data using all three methods. Use on-site for short term data storage (less than 1 week), off-site for monthly, and online as your main backup. That way, if one goes down, you have it covered. If you’d like to start backing up your data, or would like to know more about the different methods, please contact us.