Backups: Don’t Wait Until It Breaks

Accidents happen. Eventually, something will go wrong and when it does, you are going to want to be protected. Having a backup means more than just having an extra file on hand. It means being able to rest easy knowing that, if the worst should happen, it would not be the end of your business. It means that in the event of a total collapse of your systems, you have a fallback plan. It means knowing that you have already taken care of the largest problem in the event of a crash: recovering files and getting back up to date.

The most common way data is lost is due to a workstation failing due to user error or the occasional spilled drink. If the workstation is not backed up, the files may all be lost. A growing way to lose data is due to viruses and infections that spread throughout the computer and delete, steal, or corrupt the data.

The question people begin to become puzzled with is, “What can/should I backup?” The easy answer is everything. With technology being what it is today, space is cheap. You can sometimes back up an entire business for a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, you can wait for everything to go wrong, replace a dozen devices then try to start recovering all the data lost in the tragedy.

If space does become tight, start to look at things your business cannot function without, such as client information (phone numbers, email addresses, notes about the client), sales and product receipts, Internet bookmarks, anything that cannot be replaced, and anything that takes time to replace.

Backing up the data can be as simple as storing a copy of your important files on an external hard drive that you bring up to date every week. If the worst should happen after a backup is kept, you need only to plug in the backup drive to the repaired or replacement computer, copy the contents over, and continue on with your work. Instead of losing years of data, you only lose a few days.

What should you use to back up your data? In the example above, using a small flash drive or external hard drive, they can usually be damaged or lost quite easily. If the memory device is lost, it poses a problem in that it is unsecured data and can be accessed by anyone that plugs it into their computer. While these devices can be a cheap solution to backing up data, they are far from perfect.

One of the most popular solutions for any business – smaller businesses especially – is online backup. The perk of online backup is there is no hardware or software on site that can be damaged, lost, or stolen. A monthly fee based on how much storage you require is all it takes. Choose the data you want to backup and it will be securely sent to a data center where it is stored. Generally, this can be done automatically which can remove accidental user error from the equation.

In a perfect world, we would all have a backup for our data and a backup for our backup, but even having one backup can sometimes be enough to keep a problematic crash or error from becoming a monumental crisis. If you do not already have a backup in place, you have to ask yourself one thing: if all your systems crashed tomorrow, would you recover?

Is Your System’s Backup Plan Working?

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

At any moment, anything can happen that can cause your computer to fail and lose months – if not, years – of company data. This is why it’s important to have some sort of system backup in place so that files can be retrieved in case anything ever does happen to your computer or network.

Without a backup, recovery often isn’t possible and when it is, it’s often more expensive than having a long-term backup solution in place.

Some believe that just because they have a backup solution, they’ve covered their bases. If a computer goes down, they’re still safe.

Well, what about a fire in the company building? What if both your backup device and your computer are gone? What if the cloud server goes down and your computer goes out around the same time? Seems unlikely, but it can happen.

Natural disasters like flooding or lightning storms, accidents such as fires or the destruction of physical property, human influence like a tampering ex-employee or a ransomware infection… these things typically don’t give you enough warning to move your files somewhere safe. No matter what single backup solution you might use, there is a situation where it can fail.

This is why redundancy of backups is important, such as the cloud or another device. With different backup plans utilizing different locations, you can make sure that no one natural disaster or ransomware infection can stop your business for long. If anything should happen, your data will be untouched somewhere.

It’s recommended that you have at least two different backup plans in different locations. However, the more, the better. Having three different backup plans in different locations like the cloud, an offsite backup, and onsite is optimal in making sure your data is safe.

If your company data is important (which it is), there should not be a second thought in backing it up.
Remember that the more redundancy you have with your backups, the chances of losing your data drop significantly. Also, check to make sure your backup services are working and up to date as often as possible.

That way, you will not have any surprises when you least expect it and when you most need your data. At Tech Experts, we offer backup solutions that include status notifications for every backup.

It seems like we talk about this issue a lot and it’s true. We bring it up so often because disasters do happen and there have been companies that have been crushed by not having a good backup plan. Don’t let your workplace be one of them.

Take a moment and really consider how much effort you would have to put in to bring your business back up to speed after a data disaster. As always, work with your IT department and figure out what plan is best for your company before committing to anything. Interested in learning which backup solutions would best suit your business? Contact Tech Experts at (734) 457-5000.

Should Your Business Get A Backup Internet Connection?

With most business operations tied to the Internet, it is important to consider a backup plan in the event that your Internet connection goes down.

A host of things can cause issues with Internet service from natural disasters to provider caused issues, and unfortunately, those are beyond your control.

Choosing whether or not your business should have a backup Internet connection, however, is within your power.

You should first identify how much your business depends on the Internet for its operations when making this decision. In other words, could your business operate, if the Internet was to go down for a few hours without suffering a significant monetary loss? What about for a few days?

Chances are that your business would at least operate at a disadvantage without another way to access the Internet. If that is not the case, deliberating about backup connections may not be your best use of time.

For the rest of the business world, however, the real question lies in what kind of backup Internet connection you should seek.

Most experts will agree that it is wise to have your backup connection one notch lower than your primary one.

For instance, if your primary Internet connection is fiber, your secondary connection could be a T1 line. If your primary is a T1 line, try DSL or cable for your secondary.

That way, you’re not making a huge downward leap such as from fiber to dial-up, and your employees wouldn’t be at too much of a disadvantage.

This approach also takes into account your business’ budget. Your secondary connection will be a little less expensive than your primary while still being somewhat close in capability.

You’ll also need to make sure that your firewall has the capability to support more than one Internet connection. Most of the firewalls we recommend to clients include this as an option; however, the consumer grade routers sold at big box stores rarely offer this as an option.

Another important feature is to make sure your firewall can automatically detect outages, and switch Internet connections to keep you up and running without manually having to switch connections.

Replacement Equipment And Workstation Data Storage

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a huge project or in the height of your busy season, then suddenly, a key piece of equipment breaks? You have orders that need processed. Deadlines to meet. Stress starts to roll in. You start to wonder how long the downtime is going to last or what this is going to cost your business.

One way to reduce the stress levels and temporarily resolve the situation is to maintain a stock of replacement workstations and essential equipment.

Being able to switch out a workstation or any other critical piece of equipment and be back up and running sooner not only reduces stress levels, but also saves your business countless dollars in lost revenue.

Example: your company designs and prints graphics for billboards. An employee says their workstation has crashed while they were working on a project for your largest client that’s due in two days. What do you do?

You try to contact the manufacturer of the workstation, only to find out your warranty does not cover on-site service and the soonest they could be on location is in two to four days. That’s not the answer you wanted to hear.

If you had a replacement workstation on hand, you could reduce your downtime dramatically. But let’s say you do have one. So you switch out the workstations and your employees is back to work…

Until they realize all of their work is stored on the crashed workstation. Stress levels start to climb once again.

One easy way to avoid losing data would be to migrate the user’s data to a storage device located on your network. Network attached storage is much more reliable than the storage within your workstation. They can also be configured for redundancy.

This entire migration will be transparent to the user as the workstations libraries will still remain intact, just relocated to a different device. As far as the user is concerned, all of their data is saved to the workstation.

The general rule of thumb is to maintain a 10% replacement stock level of workstations or essential pieces of equipment (and always have at least 1). Replacement switches, as well as firewalls, should always be on hand or able to be purchased locally. Being able to replace a switch or firewall to bring your VOIP phone system back online or restore network connectivity to your entire business in minutes is critical.

If your business is unable to maintain replacement inventory, make sure you have (and fully understand) support contracts either from equipment manufacturers or from a local network support company.

Depending on the manufacturer or support company, support contracts can range from 24×7 to 8×5 to “whenever we can get there.” That’s why it’s very important to understand your support agreements. Never get taken by surprise.

Manufactures, depending on the piece of equipment, will offer warranties or support contracts. Be warned the contract may not include next day equipment replacement, data recovery, or installation of the equipment.

They may be able to offer remote assistance, but in most cases, you end up in a long call that does nothing to resolve your issue.

The best option, if available to your business, is to have a managed service plan with a local network support company. Most local support companies will offer same day service including weekends.

Local service companies can act as your business IT support department and/or work with your existing IT department to maintain your business equipment and resolve any issues that arise.

Most local service companies will have replacement equipment and repair parts on hand, thus reducing downtime.

A local service company will also be able to assist your business in less stressful times by offering remote support services and preventive maintenance visits to spot any potential issues before they become larger problems.

They will also work to ensure your business’ network is safe and secure and offer suggestions for upgrades to your infrastructure.

While no one can predict when a workstation may go down or a firewall will fail, the best thing you can do is be prepared.

For Pete’s Sake, Back Up Your Data Folks!

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

I’ve been supporting small business computers and network systems for more than 25 years, and believe me when I say, the number one thing that still boggles my mind is the lack of sound backup systems and procedures.

It is a topic we cover a lot in our newsletters, and for good reason: Not a month goes by where we aren’t witness to some sort of catastrophic file loss or system/server failure.

If you’ve ever lost an hour of work on your PC because it locked up in the middle of writing a proposal, you know the grief it causes. Now imagine if you lost days or weeks of work – or imagine losing your client database, financial records, and all of the work files your company has ever produced or compiled.

Or what if a major storm, flood, or fire destroyed your office and all of your files? It’s raining as I write this, perhaps the twentieth day of rain in the last 30, and we’re under a flood watch yet again. [Read more…]

The Human Factor In Network Security

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

As you’re aware, disaster can manifest in many forms. In the past, we have included articles about weather-related events and how to best prepare your business against disasters.

However, there is another type of disaster that’s unlike flooding or fires that can also have devastating effects on your business.

The Human Factor
When it comes to safeguarding your business both physically and virtually, you have the power and controls available to give the edge against company espionage, cyber-attacks, or absent-minded employees.

It comes down to three basic areas: Software, Hardware and People. Once you have a firm grasp and control over these areas, you will have reduced your risk level considerably.

Software
Make sure all of your company’s electronic devices – from company-owned smart phones, tablets, laptops, workstations and servers – are running anti-virus and have a firewall in place.

While some devices are easier to secure and manage than others, this is a critical area, so be sure to make the best attempt to cover all your devices.

Be certain that your data storage devices are running backups and the backups are indeed good. As an added form of protection, encrypt your data being stored, making sure you save the key offsite as well.

Business_People_Group_laughing backupThat way, if your data is comprised either through internal access or external, it will become very difficult to use the data that was stolen.

The size of your company and the amount of sensitive data you have will dictate the frequency of your backup schedule. Remember, it never hurts to be overprotective when it comes to your data.

Hardware
Have security/firewall devices in place. Make sure they are fully configured for your business and that the firmware is up to date.

A lot of security devices add increased measures through the firmware updates.

They often have the ability to fully lock down your internal network as well. Restrict Internet access to only websites necessary for your business operations.

If your business offers Wi-Fi access for either internal use or guest use, make sure that controls are in place to limit access to your company’s internal network. The best precaution is to place the guest Wi-Fi on a completely separate network.

While Exchange mail servers can increase overhead, they will also add a level of increased security to combat against viral infections being delivered via email and attachments.

I’m sure everyone is well aware of Crypto-Locker and its variants. The majority of Crypto-Locker infections were delivered through infected PDF files sent as attachments.

People
By nature, humans are (and will always be) the most random aspect to safeguard your business from. It is vital that you run full background checks on any employee that will be given access to sensitive data or hardware.

Restrict the use of portable media such as flash drives and external hard drives while employees are working on or in the server room. Some companies may go as far as banning all portable media devices entirely.

Be proactive in actively monitoring your employees and watch for any changes in behavior, appearance, attitude and tone of speech. These can all be signs something is wrong.

If you have questions or you’re looking for suggestions, call Tech Experts at 734-457-5000, or email us at info@mytechexperts.com.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

When Nature Strikes Part 2 – Fire In The Sky

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Fires in or around server rooms and data centers can ruin your data and put your business at risk. It’s a must to set up fire protocols when you build your room or building.

As I mentioned in Part One of “When Nature Strikes,” the two most important protocols to have in place for any “in case of…” are 1) Have a Plan and 2) Secure Your Data. When dealing with the possibility of fire destroying your server room or data center, you’ll want to make sure you also have Suppression, Containment and Insurance protocols in place as well.

Have a Plan
Disaster recovery plans are now becoming a requirement for many industries. To be prepared, businesses need to locate and define the regulatory requirements of their individual industry, which will also help avoid fines, penalties or negative press associated with noncompliance.

Trying to implement or even design a plan while in the middle of a disaster will only lead to a less than successful recovery. Make sure your team is ready for action and everyone knows what to do. It’s better to be overprepared than have a plan that goes up in flames.

Secure Your Data
Back up your data regularly. Manage a duplicate copy of all data, programming, and company processes at a different physical location or in the cloud. That way, you can continue working at a secondary location if your system crashes. One way to do that is to keep copies of all your data, programs, bare metal backups and virtual machines in data centers in other states.

If you maintain data backups and business software on location, make sure you store them in a fire rated safe. Fire safes can be purchased anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars for a fully-loaded safe.

SuppressionПечать
Fire suppression systems for server rooms and data centers are essential to the server room itself. A fire suppression system will automatically extinguish a fire without the need of human intervention.

Design standards for fire suppression systems for server rooms and data centers are carried out with strict guidelines as the fire suppression agents used can be dangerous if not designed correctly. Fires within these types of environments are suppressed in two different ways.

Reduce Oxygen – This method uses argon, nitrogen and sometimes carbon monoxide to displace the oxygen in the room. The objective of this method is to reduce the oxygen level to below 15% in the room. By reducing oxygen to this level, it will suppress the fire.

Chemical and Synthetic – Most chemical and synthetic fire suppression agents have some form of a cooling mechanism. These systems use less gas and maintain a higher level of oxygen. However, high doses of any synthetic or chemical agent can be toxic, so making sure your design is correct is absolutely necessary. Synthetic fire suppression systems will deliver its payload within ten seconds.

Containment
A fire doesn’t have to be inside your data center to jeopardize IT equipment. Because radiant heat and smoke from fire in an adjacent room can be enough to damage sensitive network hardware, creating a protective barrier between your server room and the potential fire not only blocks indirect damage, but prevents flame spread as well.

Lightweight, flame-resistant ceramic panels can be used to build fire-safe archive rooms and data centers within larger, standard-construction buildings.

Insurance
Recovering from fire damage is expensive. Business insurance is crucial and it’s not only for physical property. The right kind of insurance will replace lost income as well. Make sure your business insurance policy is up to date and has the correct coverage to support your business in crisis mode.

Make sure you have all of your suppression and containment systems built and installed by certified professionals. Insurance companies will require this in order for you to acquire the policy and even collect on it.

No one wants to get burned after a fire. Again, make sure your company insurance is up to date and has the appropriate coverage needed to rebuild your business.

If you have questions or you’re looking for suggestions on prepping your business for recovery, not disaster, call Tech Experts at (734) 457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

When Nature Strikes – Is Your Ark Ready to Float Your Business to Dry Land?

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Flooding can strain the resources of even the most well-equipped organizations. Natural disasters give little warning to companies, so preparing for the disaster is the only way to reduce the high cost of rebuilding.

Have a plan ready and in place
Disaster recovery plans are now becoming a requirement for many industries. To be prepared, businesses need to locate and define the regulatory requirements of their individual industry. In addition to reducing hardware damage and data loss, this will help avoid fines, penalties or negative press associated with noncompliance.

The health care industry has begun to require that hospitals have a recovery plan in place. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) sets standards for operating a health care organization and evaluates the industry to ensure that these standards are met. Documented and field-tested recovery plans for theft, vandalism, loss of critical data, provision of emergency power, and file and flood recovery are now required.

Trying to implement or even design a plan while in the middle of a disaster will only lead to a less than successful recovery. Make sure your team is ready for action and everyone knows what to do. It’s better to be overprepared than have a plan with holes that will sink your business.

Your data: Make sure you have it
Back up your data regularly. Manage a duplicate copy of all data, programming, and company processes at a different physical location or in the cloud. That way, you can continue working at a secondary location if your system crashes.

One way to do this is to keep copies of all your data, programs, bare metal backups and virtual machines in data centers in other states or in some cases different countries.

Tech Experts offers encrypted, HIPAA-approved, online c414084_mbackup of your files, documents, folders and data bases. If you require bare metal backups or the ability to convert your server into a virtual machine to keep afloat until replacement hardware is in place and running, Tech Experts also offers devices that can fulfill that requirement as well.

Treat your data like your money
Keep it safe and keep a lot of it.

Power: Must have it
An uninterruptable power supply (UPS) and a generator provide consistent backup power for your business if power lines go down. Make sure you routinely test and service them to ensure they’re working correctly.

Electrical components, including service panels, meters, switches, and outlets, are easily damaged by flood water. If they are underwater or come in contact with water for even short periods, they will probably have to be replaced. Make sure all of your computer systems — from servers, workstations, backup devices, and UPS’s — are up off the floor. Servers, backup components and UPS’s should be at least four feet off the floor.

Another problem is fires caused by short circuits in flooded areas. Raising electrical system components helps you avoid those problems. Having an undamaged, operating electrical system after a flood will help you clean up, make repairs, and return to your property with fewer delays.

Good relationships with vendors, customers and partners
Create strong relationships with your partners, vendors and customer base. In good times, they will give you access to new ideas, technologies, and business opportunities. During a crisis, they’re a security blanket with teams of people who know your business model and have resources to help you rebuild.

Insurance: Business is life
Floods and water damage are expensive. Business insurance is crucial and it’s not only for physical property. The right kind of insurance will replace lost income as well. Make sure your business insurance policy is up to date and has the correct coverage to support your business in crisis mode.

If you have questions or you’re looking for suggestions on prepping your business for recovery, call Tech Experts at 734-457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Severe Weather Is Just Around The Corner… Be Prepared

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

March is National Severe Weather Preparedness month, and we’re still shaking off severe winter storms.Tornado season is right around the corner, so it’s important to assess your company’s backup systems.

Disasters put all business data at risk and that’s why so many businesses take steps to protect their systems. But there are still risks that they may miss.

One of the best ways to make sure your network is properly protected is to learn from the mistakes other companies. Here are four key things that virtually guarantee it will be impossible for your business to recover from a catastrophic hardware failure or natural disaster.

Not backing up data
It may seem like common sense when preparing for a disaster or developing a continuity plan that you should back up your data. However, a study from Symantec found that only half of businesses back up more than 60% of their data.

Other businesses don’t back up data or only back up certain systems. This means that if these businesses are faced with a disaster, they could lose up to 40% of their data. Some businesses could lose all of it.

Many experts suggest that businesses not only back up their data, but take more of an all-or-nothing approach. All data should be backed up so that should a disaster happen you can guarantee that nothing will be lost.

Failing to protect off site data
Business is becoming increasingly spread out, with many employees working from outside of the office, or on their own systems. People who telecommute or use their own systems usually store important data on their local machines.

When a company goes to protect or back up their data, some Computer crashmay forget to back up data on machines outside of the company premises.

What’s more, some industries have regulations stating that you must back up data from all end-points (e.g., computers and devices) regardless of their location. So, when you are backing up data, be sure that you also back up data on systems that aren’t in the office.

Not backing up data consistently
The data in your business is always evolving and growing. Therefore, you need to ensure that it is backed up regularly. Because backups take time, there is a higher chance for them to fail. If you only back up once a year without checking, and disaster strikes, you could find that your data is incomplete, inaccessible or out of date. This may make any recovered data essentially useless.

The question is, how often should you back up your data? For most small businesses, a full backup at least once a week is suggested. If you work with client data on a regular basis or in a regulated industry, daily backups would likely be the best plan.

Using outdated backup methods
Just because you back up your data doesn’t mean it will always be available, especially if you use older backup methods such as data tapes or disks. These physical backups can be lost or even destroyed in a disaster and possibly even stolen. You may want to employ a more modern data backup solution that is more reliable, such as our Experts Total Backup cloud backup system.

That being said, you don’t have to give up older methods as these can come in handy, especially if you are going to be operating without the Internet for an extended period of time. By employing more than one solution, you can cover all bases while ensuring that data is largely backed up and available.

If you are looking to learn more about how you can protect your data, please contact us today to see how our systems and solutions can help.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Backup And Disaster Recovery For Small Businesses

by Jeremy Miller, Technician
It is that time of year again; “Storm Season”, and computers and other electronics can be damaged.

We see at least a few computers each year come in from damage caused by a storm. This can vary from a failed power supply to computers that cannot be repaired due to the damage done by the storm.

This is one reason why it is important to have a disaster recovery plan. A good disaster recovery plan starts with backing up vital information regularly.

It is best to have at least two forms of backups as well. You need on-site and off-site backups.

On-site backups are stored on some media like a hard drive or a flash drive that is not permanently attached to the computer. This is a removable storage device that can be transferred to a different computer, or even a network resource like a server.

We can also offer a device that will take a complete system image of your computer at regular intervals. If your computer or server fails, this device can actually boot up as a temporary copy of your computer or server, within minutes. This will keep your downtime to a minimum in the event of a disaster.

Off-site backups are the most important. There are instances of when the on-site backups become unusable. This can happen in the event of natural disasters like fires, floods, and electrical damage from lightning, or even something simple such as a system failure or even a virus.

It is a good idea to have your data backed up securely over the Internet to a different location that has many redundancies in place.

You need to decide what the best options will be for you and make sure that they are cost-effective. Backup and disaster recovery is something we take very seriously here. We have had clients accidently delete their entire QuickBooks databases, they called us, and we were able to restore the databases in minutes.

This client was proactive and worked with us to setup the best backup solution for them and it paid off. Being proactive and setting up a disaster recovery plan is the only way to help prevent data loss.

The most important part of backing up your data is testing your backups.

You have to test your backups to make sure everything will be able to be restored in the event of an emergency.

You do not want to spend a lot of money on backup software only to have your data become corrupt and unusable. Our backups are regularly tested to verify integrity.

We have helped many people implement backup and disaster recovery solutions. The backups that we setup off-site are tested regularly. We have had 100% success rate in restoring backups that we have setup and monitored.

If you are interested in having your current backup solution audited, or would like consulting on a new backup solution we will be happy to help. Please contact us with any questions or concerns you may have.