What Is The Difference Between Backups And Redundancy?

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

Modern businesses can generate massive amounts of data in a short period of time. As such, a vital topic of research are ways to project that data.

There are two main categories of data protection: redundancy and backups. These two types of data protection are both very important, but they are not interchangeable.

Both must be understood so that you are not caught unprepared when catastrophe strikes.

What Is Redundancy?
On a single hard drive, data is saved just one time. If that hard drive fails, then that data is lost. In order to prevent this from happening, multiple hard drives are used to store multiple copies of each piece of data.

This setup is called a “RAID,” which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks.

When a single hard drive fails in a properly set up RAID, the other drives change how they operate and continue saving files with very little interruption and no loss of data. In a business such as a doctor’s office where appointments are booked out three months in advance, redundancy can be the difference between a service call with less than thirty minutes of downtime and a multiple day outage affecting hundreds of patients and staff.

What Are Backups?
There are many other ways in which data can be lost, including file corruption, accidental deletion, fire, theft, malware, and more.

Redundancy can protect against hard drive failure, but in cases such as these, it is of no help. For example, if the user accidentally deletes a file, all redundant copies of that file will be deleted.

This is where backups come in. Backups copy your data onto a completely separate storage device.

The most secure backup systems are called offsite backups, because the data is copied to another geographic location entirely. If a user accidentally deletes a file that is backed up, that file can be restored using the backup copy.

However, restoring files from an offsite backup can take quite a long time depending on the amount of data and available network bandwidth. Due to this, many businesses keep another backup on a different device in the same building.

This is referred to as a local backup. Since restoring from a local backups only involve sending the data over the internal network, or even directly copying onto another drive, they can greatly reduce downtime.

So, Which Solution Should You Have?
None of these data protection methods are mutually exclusive and each of these methods has strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, most businesses will get the most benefit by having all of them in place because each one fills a gap in coverage left by another.

Redundancy will save data if a single drive is lost to mechanical failure, with very little downtime. However, it can’t protect against almost all other types of data loss.

A local backup will protect against all types of data loss except when both the default and backup locations are lost at the same time. Restoring takes longer than a redundant drive, but is still quite fast.

An offsite backup takes the longest to restore from, but protects against almost all scenarios.

So, the next time you want to impress your coworkers and possibly save the company, ask whether your server or network-attached storage has both backups and redundancy in place.

What Is Data Retention? Why Do I Need It?

If you are in the medical or legal industry, regulations require you to retain data and records for a certain period of time. The data retention process was a little more clear-cut back when it was only files and sheets of papers in brown boxes that you stored in the attic or the basement.

However, in today’s time, almost everything is in digital form, whether it’s stored locally on a file server, external hard drives, or in the cloud.

This data needs to be secure and easily accessible in the event you need to retrieve any of it. Depending on how much data you have, there are many options.

The one thing you do not want to do is buy a cheap hard drive, move your data over to it, and think you’re safe.

If you only have one copy of that data and you move it to a new location, that is your only copy. You want to have your data saved in more than one location or a mirror copy of it saved.

A business might want to consider a local or cloud server with a RAID setup so that there is a copy of your copy. It creates a copy of your data so that, in the event of a hardware failure or data corruption, the data can be restored from the second copy.

The first copy would be returned to the last version, like nothing happened to it.

If you are a larger business and/or deal with medical or financial information, it would be very wise to utilize data encryption for the stored data.

However, every business should create a data retention policy and follow it. Categorize documents and images, then specify how long the data is to be retained.

Make sure all employees and IT professionals with access to company and client data know and adhere to this policy.

The main thing to keep in mind is the type and quality of hardware that is used. It’s great to have a data retention policy in place and follow it exactly, but if your data gets corrupted, stolen, or a hard drive fails, the policy does you no good.

The key to a rock-solid data retention policy starts with having a robust backup solution in place as well.

The backup solution can either be a cloud-based system or an on-site enterprise storage device or server with a proper RAID setup.

Here at Tech Experts, we can assist you with establishing a file server with the correct RAID configuration to ensure that the retained data is safe and secure, with encryption and redundancy built in. Cloud based image backups are also a great way to ensure the safety of your data.

We can also start you on a managed service plan for monitoring and maintenance of that server and your other workstations, laptops, printer, and VoIP phone systems.

Wherever you decide to store your data, make sure that enterprise hardware and security measures are used to ensure that your data will remain intact.

Five Ways To Take Your Business Paper Free

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

If you’re a small business owner, chances are you always have one eyes on your operating costs and the best way to reduce or eliminate extra expenses and improve staff efficiency.

One great way in which you can gain some great cost savings is by eliminating paper.

Paper-based tasks increase storage, postage, and compliance costs and can be a major overhead for modern-day businesses.

Here are five ways you can reduce paper usage and save yourself some cash in the process.

Smart Project Management

Traditionally, the process of managing company projects that involve different departments and multiple people generates massive amounts of paperwork.

More contemporary organizations are taking the smart project management approach through the use of cloud-based solutions, such as Basecamp, Asana or Trello, which allow you to ditch the paper while running a project online with unlimited users.

Electronic Payroll

Rectifying payroll issues costs half of all small business an average of $850 annually. Using decent payroll software reduces the errors and facilitates paperless processing. An electronic payroll system automates all the manual calculations such as tracking hours worked, calculating salaries, and filing taxes.

Salaries can also be paid electronically rather than printing checks or visiting the bank.

The additional benefits of electronic payroll include self-service functionality, and allowing staff to view their payroll data, such as personal details, tax deductions and pay slips online from any device.

Receipts and Invoices

Eliminate paper (and postage costs) by offering customers the option to receive electronic receipts either by email or text.

Your customer will then have it for future reference. Ask suppliers to issue and email digital invoices, which you can save into your accounting software.

Cloud Storage

Small businesses spend a lot of money to purchase, fill and maintain filing cabinets!

Switching to cloud storage can reduce most of this cost as many services, like Dropbox, offer a free allowance.

Most cloud-based options also allow you to organize documents into separate folders.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

CRM software can reduce the extent to which you rely on paper to store and track customer details, purchase orders, quotes and other correspondence.

Features include the ability to store customer data and interactions, manage staff details and vendors, and store documents.

What Is Credential Management And Should I Have It?

Ron Cochran is a senior help desk technician for Tech Experts.

In the world today, we have many things to remember and passwords are one of those. We have alarm codes, website logins, usernames, passwords, passphrases, bank account information, and everything in between. However, if you’re on top of your password game, then none of your passwords match and that can be quite the chore to keep up on.

This brings me to a product called Passportal.

Passportal eliminates the need to remember all those different passwords, websites, and passphrases. With Passportal, once you have your account set up – and have entered your websites, usernames, passwords, and passphrases – you will only need to remember one password to sign into anything. There is also an extension for one of the most popular web browsers.

Once you create your account with Passportal, you’ll be able to enter your website of choice, username, and password; then, when you revisit that site, you will be notified that Passportal has saved your credentials for that site. You’ll click one button and Passportal will automatically enter your information in, then you’re logged in to your favorite websites, social media, or message boards.

While it may sound like you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket, Passportal’s main focus is password security. The website, application, and process was created with military-grade password data security in mind while maintaining ease of use for the end user.

In the event of a mugging or break-in, you can lock your Passportal account and disable your usernames and passwords, instead of trying to remember everything you need to change. It’s one less thing to worry about when recovering from identity theft.

Let’s say your credit card and bank information have been compromised. Once you receive your new card and password, you revisit the website. Passportal remembers your password, but it doesn’t work. You will be able to seamlessly add the new password to the Passportal extension with just a couple clicks and keystrokes. Passportal has saved many users countless extra clicks, time, and hassle by keeping their valuable personal information secure.

If you are the owner of a company, you can utilize Passportal and have control over the passwords and when/if they expire. If you have an employee that quits or is terminated, you can lock that username out of your company information with just ONE click of a button. This feature saves valuable time that a human resource manager would have used to track down all the user information, gain access to their workstation or laptop, and remove their profile, or gain access to the server to remove their Active Directory profile.

Passportal also has two-way syncing with Active Directory for Windows Server. With Passportal, there is even a mobile app and phone number you can text to get a password reset. This feature will save employees who are locked out of their accounts – and allow your IT department to focus on more in-depth issues.

If you’re the human resource manager, general manager, or owner of a company, your company will most likely be able to benefit. Ask your IT department or managed service provider about Passportal and how you can implement it within your company.

Data Redundancy And Why You Should Have It

Ron Cochran is a senior help desk technician for Tech Experts.

Data redundancy is the making of an exact copy of the data that you are currently working with, in the event of a hardware failure, theft, or those pesky mistakes where you delete something that you really wanted.

What happens is you will have 1 or more hard-drives used for backups, housing those files that are kept nearly current. You will go through the steps to rebuild or restore the files or programs that were removed, then you will be back at the point you were at before the files were lost.

The above is extremely important when you are working with money or medical records. Let’s say you were working with a customer on their tax returns and your office experienced a power outage, which turns your computer off in the middle of saving data. A short while later, the power is restored and you turn your computer on and open the data to resume where you left off — and you find out that there is no record on your computer of your client and you start to panic.

If you had a redundant data solution, then you could restore the data, but if you didn’t, then you will need to call that customer and explain that they will need to bring all of that data back in so you can enter it into your system again. Now, consider how this customer could begin to think of you and your business.

If you have a safety net, you would follow the steps from your program and, in a short while, all of that data that you lost will be restored and you’ll be back at the point when the power went out, with all of your data intact. There are several different ways you can set up a system backup. One of the ways is to have more than one storage solutions to send data to.

With this solution, you will have more than one drive that is saving that information, which will do a couple of things. It will speed up the read/write times and you take less of a chance of losing more data. It’s always wise to have more than one solution for data recovery. You don’t want to wait until it’s too late and find out that in order to recover the data on your drive it’s going to be thousands of dollars.

You can have an image copy of your hard-drive made one time a day (or once a week or maybe twice a month) with a scheduled back up. You could have an application running in the background of your computer that would take up very few resources as it copies your data to a drive or an offsite storage facility.

We offer quite a few different data redundancy solutions to our clients. Those options range from on-site RAID drives to a cloud-based solution that is off-site. With either option, you can have a data backup or an image of your operating system — or even a direct mirror copy of your hard-drive in real time.

If you are worried that you might lose valuable information, then some sort of data redundancy is probably something you should be actively seeking. If you’re overwhelmed by the options and aren’t exactly sure which method would suit your business best, contact us and we can help you narrow it down, as well as provide a solution.

Why Is A Server Important For Your Business?

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

A server is a very important asset to any small business as it provides many features that can help your business run safely and efficiently.

For instance, when lending out a new or existing computer to employees, you can prevent unnecessary access, change passwords, or unlock accounts in one location. This allows management of the computers, enabling full control at all times.

It also allows you to have a centralized location for many of your functions: the server. You can share files and applications and reduce redundancy for all files. Since servers primarily run in a RAID configuration of some sort, you will have extra protection for your most important files.

Another great thing about a server is you can set up a domain for your business, enabling automation features like backups in one place.

This also allows for profiles, including files and applications, to be accessible from any workstation connected to the server. Not to mention, a server will keep you organized and running more efficiently in general by keeping your email, contacts, calendars, and files safe.

Data transferring to and from a server is much faster than transferring from a computer due the overall design of a server. Servers are built for speed, reliability, and security purposes.

This means you are going to get through the day with your time and resources spent more wisely, allowing you to continue with what matters in your business.

This efficiency and organization will increase customer relationships and help build retention with new and potential customers.

Best of all, you can set up a server to curve toward your needs. You can use a server for hosting your own websites, as a backup server, fileserver, or even run your database. You can also upgrade (to an extent) if your needs grow.

Keep in mind, these are only some of the many server configurations available for your server.

File or Backup Server
This server is for file-sharing, active directory, and domain services. It’s primarily used for backups and storage of user files.

This is the best option if you are going to need safe storage services for your business since a server is going to have redundancy storage to keep data safe.

Database Server
This server configuration is for database storage and management of SQL, Oracle, etc. This is a necessary option if you are utilizing a database for your business.

Again, utilizing a server is going to allow safe keeping of your files – this includes your critical files such as your database files.

Web Server
This configuration is for webhosting services and will allow hosting and management of a website from your office.

This is a great option for running web-based applications through your server. This option can also be done off-site by a website host if you prefer to go that route for faster access or security.

Utilizing a server is important for your business and choosing a server can be tough, let alone installing one yourself. Let Tech Experts help you decide and make sure you get the best option possible for your small business.

Five Ways Cloud Computing Can Improve Your Business

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Regardless of the size of your business, you can harness the power of the same high-tech tools used by Fortune 500 companies, thanks to cloud-based technology.

According to recent studies of small- to medium-sized businesses, those using cloud computing greatly outperformed those that didn’t. One study showed an average of 26% more growth and 21% more profitability for small- to medium-sized businesses using cloud computing over those that only had their heads in the clouds.

Here are five concrete ways the cloud can help your business:

Reduced costs
Cloud computing eliminates the need for a large IT department. With the data centers located off-site, your business is not responsible for the electricity to run, maintain, or periodically upgrade those servers. The money saved by using cloud computing can then be redirected into growing your business or marketing to new clients. [Read more…]

Is It Ever A Good Idea To Share Your Password?

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

There are times when it can be tempting to share account information or give a coworker access to files and programs to streamline processes. Other times, you might be away from the office and someone may need something on your Windows.

There are many reasons why workers would want to share accounts and passwords that would be in good faith and, on the surface, best for business. Should this be allowed and acceptable in a work setting? The short answer is no, and for several good reasons.

As much as it would seem that sharing passwords and credential information could help workers, this can lead to poor habits and huge security vulnerabilities. All it takes is for one person to write a password down for another person to read it.

It is common for someone using social engineering to go into company buildings and look for sticky notes, note pads, or files on desktops with passwords and account information on them. This way, they have the means to steal company information.
Even worse, it will look like the user account that was used to steal information was the one stealing information instead of the thief.

Another common event at some work places is that some workers will use their coworkers account to do something risky, so if anything happens, the account holder is the one in trouble and not the person borrowing their account.

backupWhen it comes down to the pressures of keeping a job or to work towards promotions, it can be surprising what some people might resort to in achieving their goals.

Sometimes, a person sharing an account might make a mistake and mean no harm, like deleting some important files on accident or click something they didn’t know about in an area of the computer they normally do not have access to.
This would also look like the account holder made the mistakes and not the actual person. There is a reason why certain people have access to certain drives, websites, and programs. Permissions and restrictions should be respected.

Your Windows account and email are your unique fingerprints and they should be protected. Everything you do on a computer is recorded in event logs and possibly on other monitoring systems on the network. Your account information should serve you as well as prove the work you have done.

It may be tempting to share account information, but there are alternatives. If a coworker needs access to a program or website, let IT know.

If the coworker really needs access for their job, then your manager and IT will change permissions to allow them access and they’ll no longer have to ask for your password.

What about if they need to work on files that you are working on? Your IT can setup a network drive and enable access for both you and your coworker so that files can be edited and changed freely without ever logging into each other’s accounts.

There may be many other reasons as to why people may want to share their account information, but chances are, there are alternatives that your IT can implement so that no one’s personal credentials are given out. Keep your account your own and there will be no unnecessary risk or possible security threat out in the open. If you have security or user concerns or would like to develop a permissions plan, we would be happy to help. Give us a call at (734) 457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

How An End User Might Accidentally Undermine Your Security

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

If you’re like every other small business out there, you know that the more employees you hire, the more technology that you have to procure. However, when you have more end-users, you provide more avenues for threats to slip into your network infrastructure unnoticed.

When all it takes is one simple mistake from a single end-user, how can you minimize the chances of falling victim to an untimely hacking attack? We’ve put together a list of honest mistakes that any end-user can make – and how they can be prevented.

Clicking on malicious links
With so much information on the Internet, it’s easy for an employee to search through countless pages without any regard to the sites and links that they’re clicking on.

You need to emphasize the importance of safe browsing, including double-checking the destination of a link before clicking on it. You can do so by hovering over the link and looking in the bottom-left corner of your browser.

Using weak passwords
Employees frequently use passwords that aren’t strong enough to keep hackers out. Often times, they’ll simply use something of personal significance, like the name of their pet or a specific date.

This isn’t the right way to approach password security. Instead, users should attempt to put together passwords that are private, randomized strings of numbers, letters, and symbols.

Losing unencrypted devices
It’s not unheard of for an employee to use company devices in public places. If they accidentally leave their smartphone on the bus or their tablet on a park bench, there’s always the risk that it can be stolen.

Unless you practice proper encryption protocol, any information available on the device can be accessed by the person who finds it, be it a good Samaritan or a tech-savvy thief.

Implementing unapproved solutions
Some employees simply prefer to use solutions that aren’t provided by the company to get their work done. The problem here is that the employee is moving forward without consulting IT about it and that your data is being used in a solution that you can’t control.

Plus, if the employee is using free or open-source software, these often come bundled with unwanted malware that can put your data in even greater peril.

Personal email use
It’s one thing to check your personal email account while at work, but another entirely to use your personal email account to perform work purposes.

As the recent debacle with Hillary Clinton shows, people don’t take kindly to sensitive information being leaked via an unsecured email server that their organization has no control over.

Add in the fact that personal email accounts are often not as secure as those in a professional productivity suite and you have a recipe for disaster. You need to reinforce that your team should keep their work and personal email separate.

Leaving workstations unattended
Besides the fact that some tech-savvy employees are practical jokers, it’s a security risk to leave a workstation unlocked and unattended for long periods of time.

Imagine if someone from outside of your organization walked into your office and accessed confidential files without authorization; that’s on the employee who got up and left the device unattended.

Encourage your employees to always log off of their workstations, or at least lock them, before stepping away from it. User error is a primary cause for concern among businesses, but it can be mostly avoided by providing your staff with the proper training. For more information on IT best practices, give us a call at (734) 457-5000.

Technology Considerations When Moving To A New Office

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

Moving your office is never an easy task. You have to move furniture, personal objects, and above all else, your technology infrastructure. There’s nothing simple about moving your office’s technology, but it’s still nothing to get worried about. That’s why we’re here to help – from suggesting the optimal network cabling, to the proper deployment of new and improved technology solutions.

For example, let’s take a look at your office. You have a certain number of workstations, one for each of your employees. These workstations need to be connected via cable to your business’s network. Otherwise, your team could go without required software, data, and other important resources. Your cabling infrastructure could quickly grow to be uncontrollable, especially if you don’t approach your cabling procedures correctly.

[Read more…]