Blog

August 7th, 2014

Security_Aug05_BWhen it comes to business security, many small to medium business owners and managers often struggle to ensure that their systems and computers are secure from the various attacks and malware out there. While there are a million and one things you can do to secure systems, one of the most useful approaches is to be aware of common security threats. To help, here are five common ways your systems can be breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 7th, 2014

Hardware_Aug05_BHave you ever taken your laptop to a presentation or meeting and forgotten your power bar? Many laptops have batteries that really won't last all that long when you really need them to, and it can be a pain to run out of battery at an inopportune moment. Luckily, there are a number of ways in which you can extend your battery life when it's running low. Here are six.

1. Adjust the brightness of your screen

A brighter screen will cause your battery life to decrease faster. If you are running low on power, try turning the brightness of the screen down as low as it can go while still remaining visible.

Many laptops, including most PCs and all Macs, have shortcuts on the keyboard that allow you to modify the brightness of your screen. On almost all laptops, screen brightness is indicated by a sun icon, and pressing the smaller sun will decrease the brightness. On most laptops you can either just press the key with the brightness labels on it to decrease the brightness, while others will require that you press the FN key and the key with the label.

2. Activate your laptop's battery saver mode

Most laptops have a built in battery management feature that allows you to enable different profiles based on how you are using the laptop. One of the more useful settings is Battery Saver or Eco Mode. These modes have been developed to help extend the battery life when your battery is running low.

When activated, they will often manually override settings like screen brightness and turn off unnecessary services or connections like BlueTooth. To activate this on PCs, you can usually click on the battery icon in the lower-right bar of the main Windows screen and select your power saving mode.

If you have a Mac, press the battery icon at the top and select Open Energy Saver Preferences. This will allow you to modify how your laptop saves energy, including when to turn the screen and hard drives off.

3. Unplug connected devices

Many USB devices you plug into your laptop like hard drives, mice, phones, etc. are actually powered by your computer. Therefore, if you are running off of the battery, you will likely see increased drain if devices are plugged in.

When you are running low on power, try unplugging devices connected by USB. This is especially important if you have plugged your mobile phone or tablet into your laptop to charge.

You should also look to make sure other connection methods like Bluetooth are off. Disconnecting devices should allow your laptop to last a bit longer.

4. Turn off keyboard backlighting

A common feature of many newer laptops is a backlit keyboard. While useful when you are in a low light situation and need to see what keys you are hitting, the backlight does use battery power and can decrease your battery life.

Most laptops allow you to turn the backlight off from the keyboard, much like the screen brightness. The location of these buttons will be different for each laptop, so be sure to consult your user manual if you can't find them.

5. Close unnecessary apps

When working on the computer, many of us will have more than one program open at the same time. Some of these programs aren't 100% necessary to the task at hand, and keeping them open will usually increase the drain on battery.

So, when your battery starts to get low, try closing apps and programs you aren't using. This is especially true for apps that require larger amounts of computer resources like Photoshop or any graphics heavy program. Closing these will give you a precious few extra minutes, or more, of power.

6. Simplify your activities

Finally, along with closing apps that you aren't using, try simplifying what you are doing. What we mean here is focus on one task. If you are writing a blog article, close everything not related to writing including communication apps like email, instant messaging, etc.

The goal here is to try and stay in the same window or program, as switching programs will increase the drain of the battery. Sure, it won't be a massive spike in battery usage, but staying in the same window or app will help increase the time you'll be able to use your laptop on battery.

If you have a laptop and are looking for ways to get more out of your battery, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
August 6th, 2014

BCP_Aug05_BMost IT experts will agree that in order for a business to survive, they need some sort of recovery or continuity plan in place. Regardless of the type of plan, or systems integrated, all systems need to have a back up mechanism. In the last article, we took a look at four tips to help improve your data backups, and continue this article with the final four.

5. Automate your backup

It can be tough to actually remember to back up your files, especially if your business is busy. Therefore, you could look into an automated backup solution. At the very least, you should set a schedule as to when backups are conducted and set what is being backed up. While this isn't a full automation, a schedule will help.

If you are using solutions like the cloud or NAS (Network Attached Storage), you can usually automate the process by selecting which files and folders to back up and when. The software that powers these solutions will then do this automatically.

Ideally, your backups should be carried out automatically to ensure your data is available should you need it. But you should check periodically to ensure that your data is actually being backed up. This is especially true if you are backing up other systems, as there have been cases where employees have become frustrated by the backup process and simply turned it off. The business owner, thinking their data was being backed up would be in for a bit of a shock when systems crashed, if this was the case.

6. Back up your backups

Redundancy of your backups is just as important as actually backing up your data. You should keep a backup of your backup in case something happens to your original backup. While this doesn't have to be carried out as often as the 'normal' backup, this should be done on a regular basis.

In order to really ensure backup redundancy we recommend that if your main backup is kept on-site, then the secondary backup should be on another storage medium that is kept off-site.

7. Don't forget data stored on non-physical drives

What we are referring to here is the data stored on different services like your email, social media, and non-physical locations. This is especially true if you say have you own servers. It's highly likely that there is data stored on these services as well, and should they go down and you haven't kept a backup, you may lose important information.

Essentially, think about critical data that is used in the company, but isn't physically kept on computers. It may feel like this is going a step too far with backups, especially for businesses who use email services like Exchange and Gmail. However, while the chances of these systems going down are incredibly rare, it could still happen. Therefore, you should conduct a monthly to bi-yearly backup just to ensure that data is there somewhere should something happen.

8. Test your backups

Finally, it is beneficial to actually test your backups from time-to-time to ensure that they are not only working but the data is actually recoverable. If you do a trial run on recovering your data, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to retrieve this information when you actually need to recover it. You can then take steps to optimize this and let the relevant people know.

Also, testing is a good way to discover any problems, e.g., if someone has disabled backups, or one solution isn't working. This will ensure that your data is there when you need it.

If you are looking to integrate a data backup solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 30th, 2014

Windows_July28_BHave you ever seen a colleague's desktop that is covered in icons, shortcuts, files, and folders? Or maybe it's you that is disorganized. It's not uncommon for desktops to get cluttered, especially if you have been using your computer for a number of years. The issue with this however, is that desktop clutter can make it harder to find what you are looking for and can even slow your computer down.

Want to tidy up your desktop? Here are six tips on how you can get your desktop more organized and even reduce virtual clutter too.

1. Before you begin do a bit of recon

Before you go about simply deleting everything off of your desktop, it is worthwhile thinking about what you really want to keep on your desktop. This will be vary from person to person, of course, but most people treat their desktop as a place where they put files, folders, and app shortcuts that they want to quickly access.

Take the time to think about what you use the most and which files and folders you really need to access instantly or which you use all the time. An easy way to figure this out is to simply auto-arrange your icons by right-clicking on an empty area of your desktop (where there are no icons) and selecting Auto arrange icons. This will arrange your icons into a grid format that makes them easier to see and work with. Then, right-click on empty space and hover your mouse over Sort by and select Date modified to order the icons by the date they were last modified, or opened, with the latest at the top.

2. Create holding and app shortcut folders

People often use their desktop to hold files like downloads, photos, screenshots, and even email attachments. This can lead to an incredibly cluttered desktop in a short amount of time.

In truth, you probably don't need all these shortcuts on your desktop. What you can do is create a folder on your desktop where all non-essential files and folders go. A folder like this is great to hold downloads or files that will only be used for a short amount of time.

The key here, is this folder is used for non-important, or temporary items. If you don't plan on keeping it, put the file, icon, etc. into this folder. Once you are done with the file, simply go into the holding folder and delete it.

It could help to also create a shortcut folder. When you install new programs on Windows, a shortcut icon is often automatically added to your desktop. However, these desktop shortcut should be for frequently used programs only. For programs that aren't really used that often, it is best to create a separate folder the shortcuts. This not only reduces desktop clutter, but puts shortcuts in one central location, making them easier to find.

3. Be ruthless

Once you have your folders set up, it's time to start getting rid of the clutter. As with any clearout you should be ruthless. If you haven't used a file, folder, etc. in the past two months or so, you should seriously question whether you can get rid of it.

To make this easier, open your desktop via the File Explorer. You can do this by opening any folder and clicking Desktop from the left-hand menu bar. This will make all of the icons and files on your desktop easier to see and work with.

Go through these and uninstall programs you no longer use, delete images you no longer need, move unimportant files, and place files in their relevant folders. Once complete, take a look at your browser to see where it downloads files too. If you have your browser set to download files to your desktop by default, try going into the settings and changing the download location to another file like the Downloads folder.

4. Stick with it

Once you have de-cluttered your desktop, try to stick with the rules you have set. With downloads ask yourself whether these need to be on the desktop or whether they can go into a folder somewhere else.

Of course, sticking with it won't always be easy, so maybe take time once every month or two to revisit your desktop and clean it up a bit.

5. Use the taskbar or Start for apps, not the desktop

With Windows 8 and 8.1 you can actually pin apps to the Start menu, so when you click it the apps are available in the window that pops up. This is a great alternative to simply having program shortcuts on your desktop. Pin apps to the Start menu on Windows 8 and 8.1 by opening your apps list (clicking the down arrow from the Windows Start screen) and right-clicking on the program you would like to pin. Select Pin to Start to be able to access it when you hit the Windows key on your keyboard.

If you prefer the traditional desktop view of Windows 7, or are using Windows 7, why not pin your important programs to the taskbar at the bottom of the screen? This can be done by right-clicking on an open app and selecting Pin to Taskbar. The programs will remain at the bottom of the screen, and can be opened by simply clicking on them.

6. Strategically pick your wallpaper

An interesting way to minimize clutter is to pick a wallpaper that you enjoy looking at. Be it a favorite picture, slogan, etc., try to frame the image so the focus is in the center of your desktop. Then, place your icons around the image in a way that they still allow you to see the image. If you can't see the image, then you have too many icons and it may be time to get rid of a few.

Also, having an image you like also serves as a reminder to try to keep icons to a minimum in the first place. This could be a proactive solution to keeping desktop clutter down.

If you are looking to learn more about using Windows in your office, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 29th, 2014

Office365_July28_BCloud-based applications, like Microsoft's Office 365, are increasingly gaining popularity in today’s fast-paced world. With various updates and increased integration with Microsoft apps, most businesses are quick to adapt to these changes for better work solutions. With that in mind, Office 365 just introduced its latest update, a simplified login solution to Yammer. If you’re not familiar with the name, don’t worry, we’ll take a quick look at Yammer and how this simplified login works to help your business.

What is Yammer?

Yammer is Microsoft’s social network platform, focusing on your business and your organization’s clientele. In order to join, you must have a working email address from your company’s domain, which will also enable you to create external networks to allow non-employees like suppliers and customers to communicate with your company effectively and easily.

What is simplified login and how do I turn it on?

Simplified login integrates Yammer and Office 365 through user mapping to save you time when signing into Yammer via Office 365. Here’s how to turn on the simplified login feature:
  1. Administrators must sign into Office 365 using the global administrator account.
  2. Select Admin, Sharepoint; and once in Sharepoint admin center, select Settings.
  3. On the Settings page, under Enterprise Social Collaboration, select Use Yammer.com service.
  4. Click on Yammer from Office 365 to check that you won’t have to log in again and can start connecting with people right away.
If you previously made Yammer the primary social experience for your organization, you can enable this for your Office 365 users by following these steps:
  1. Access Sharepoint admin center and select Settings.
  2. Under Enterprise Social Collaboration, click the Use Sharepoint Newsfeed button to clear previous settings
  3. Select Use Yammer.com service and click Ok to apply changes. Each of these two updates might take up to 30 minutes to complete
  4. Once you’re done, Yammer will replace Newsfeed in the Office 365 navigation.
Keep in mind that users without existing Yammer accounts are taken to a streamlined signup and verification process. And although user mapping saves time, it’s not a complete single sign-on solution, meaning when you go to Yammer.com directly or use Yammer mobile apps, you still need to log in with your Yammer.com credentials. Looking to learn more about Office 365 and its functions? Call us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 25th, 2014

Here at PCM, we take your security seriously. We live in a new age where viruses, while they are still a concern, are not the biggest concern. Threats have shifted to Spy-ware, Scareware and many other types of Malware. Because of the changing times and the changing complexity of Malware, the traditional Antivirus products have become less effective. In addition to the changing complexity of Malware, we’re also seeing Malware being released more rapidly and changing quickly so as to avoid detection.

While it’s a bit more complicated, the basic premise is that traditional antivirus products work on how a file looks. Much like how a human can recognize another known person, antivirus products recognize what a virus looks like. This is done by matching it against a database of virus descriptions. The problem is, when that database is out of date, a virus could get past the antivirus solution. What we’re seeing today is that viruses and malware products are changing their “appearance” so rapidly that they’re getting past traditional virus programs.

In addition to being less effective, Antivirus products have grown in size to the extent that they affect the performance of the computer. There is always overhead to security and unfortunately that takes a toll on the performance of any computer.

All that being said, what if we could have the best of both? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a product that was effective AND fast? What if there was a product that wasn’t bloated and worked silently in the background without affecting the user’s performance while at the same time keeping them more secure? We’ve been watching a product called Webroot for over a year. This product is revolutionary in the way it works. The first major difference is that it does not have a locally installed definitions database. The definitions are in a cloud database. The advantage of that is once a threat is detected and the cloud database is updated, all machines are now updated, there’s no delay for machines to download updates. In addition to the definitions, Webroot checks not only what a process looks like, but also what it’s doing. If it doesn’t recognize the file, but it does recognize the type of activity it’s doing, it will shut it down understanding it’s a threat. This is revolutionary for the security world!

A second major difference is the size. The installer for Webroot is less than 1MB in size. Compare that to the installer for our current solution which is over 400MB. You can see from this alone that it’s significantly smaller. Because of its small size, the product is significantly more agile and does not have a major drain on the local system resources. It works as it should, in the background while not taking away speed from the current user.

Over the next month we plan to deploy Webroot across all systems at all our managed clients. We’re pretty excited about the benefits of this product on your protection and speed. Feel free to contact us for more information about this exciting new security tool!

Topic Articles
July 24th, 2014

Productivity_July21_BEnterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is the use of software to automate business information and management. While it is largely thought to be mainly for enterprises, there are an increasing number of solutions that are bringing this powerful tool to businesses of all sizes. Despite this fact, many business owners often question whether they really should implement ERP or not.

There are several common business situations that indicate your business may be ready to implement an ERP solution. Here are 5:

1. Your business is entering the growth stage

If your business is experiencing a period of growth of profits, sales, and employees, chances are high that the number of systems and processes you use and require are also growing. If not managed properly, you could see a significant slowdown in growth due to inefficient processes.

By integrating an ERP solution, you can avoid this largely because these systems allow you to manage processes from a central location and provide you with the right resources when you need them. Essentially, they provide the platform that can support the systems and processes that enable healthy growth.

2. You have a tough time accessing business information

Companies without ERP often see employees wasting time tracking down important information. Think about the time you need to spend looking for accounting data. Is it available at the click of a button, or do you need to search for it across different locations?

If you are spending more time tracking important information than actually using it, you would do well to look into an ERP solution. It can centralize information and make it much easier to access when you need it, thereby increasing your overall productivity.

3. Finance and HR processes are becoming harder to manage

Companies with a small number of employees or customers can likely get by without specific software to help track relevant information and can use spreadsheets instead. But as soon as you see growth, you will quickly find out that spreadsheets simply won't cut it and managing Finance and HR related activities and information will become an uphill struggle.

If your teams rely on paper or other base information to develop reports and fill orders, you could see labor costs shoot up, possibly becoming your biggest expense. By integrating an automated solution like an ERP, you can cut back on these costs and make your employees' jobs more manageable.

4. Databases contain double entries and errors

When each department uses their own software to keep information, it can become impossible to manage it all and ensure that all systems contain not only the same information but are up-to-date. When different departments have different information for the same client, person or function you are going to see inefficiencies and errors made.

These mistakes and the time spent correcting them can result in increased wages, decreased productivity, and even potential loss of sales. By implementing an ERP, you can ensure that everyone is accessing the same information which is not only correct but also up-to-date.

5. There are numerous processes carried out on different software and systems

It is common to see many businesses invest in different software and systems for different functions and departments. In many cases, this can lead to high overhead and management costs which in turn can eat away at profits.

Many ERP solutions are developed to support a variety of business processes and departments. What this equates to is one solution that covers all aspects of your business. This is almost always more affordable than multiple systems. The same can be said if you need to add new employees. With traditional systems this means investing in new software licenses. However, with ERP you can usually add a user for a low monthly cost, or even no cost at all - depending on the solution you integrate.

If you are looking to learn more about ERP and how it can be implemented in your organization, contact us today and discover what might turn out to be a successful solution for increased profits and productivity.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
July 24th, 2014

BusinessValue_July21_BTechnology is constantly evolving, and many businesses simply struggle to keep up with the changes, or even to manage their own existing solutions. While some may have come to terms with this and accept it as a challenge to running their business, there is an option available which could help many small business owners - outsourcing your IT to a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is an MSP?

When small to medium businesses look to outsource the management of their technology, many turn to a Managed Services Provider. These service providers function as partners in the management of a business's technology and often assume responsibility for managing, installing, and monitoring all, or at least a large part, of your tech on your behalf.

Because many of these IT partners are focused on technology services, they can often provide technology services equal to, or better than, hiring an in-house IT team. Beyond that, most IT partners offer services at a fixed monthly rate, thus allowing your business to effectively budget for IT expenditures.

5 Ways an IT partner can help

Aside from stabilizing costs and offering powerful IT solutions, there are many ways an IT partner can help your business. Here are 5:

1. Provide stability and direction

Technology is always changing, and the number of services and solutions available is simply staggering. Do you go with Windows, OS X, or Linux for your operating system? What about servers? Do you want cloud services? If so, which? Simply picking the right solution for your business requires an IT expert.

IT partners know technology and take the time to get to know your business needs and goals. From there, they can help pick and implement the best solutions that will support your current demands and provide the necessary IT platform on which you can stably expand your business.

2. Allow you to focus on your core business function

Anyone who is not an IT expert but has been thrust into the role of managing technology quickly comes to realize that technology management and implementation is a full time job. What this means in many small businesses is that someone has to give up time focusing on their main role to focus on technology. This inevitably results in a loss of overall productivity.

By outsourcing your IT, you and your employees can focus on core business functions, without having to worry about pressing technology issues and staying up-to-date with tech developments. This results in an overall increase in productivity.

3. Help you learn how to leverage technology to meet your business goals

To many, new technology like the cloud, advanced databases, and web languages like HTML and CSS are simply too confusing. They may even be downright scary! When people feel overwhelmed by technology, they will often not be able to use it in the best possible way or they will shy away from it. This can lead to decreased productivity, unused technology, and a wasted investment.

Many IT partners don't just install and manage systems, they also take the time to ensure that employees are comfortable with them and understand how to use them. This increases overall tech buy-in and can in turn reduce wasted investments, saving you money in the long run.

4. Enable you to use the latest technology

A common complaint of many who work in small to medium businesses is that the technology systems in the company are old or slow. This is largely due to the fact that many businesses operate on thin margins and simply cannot afford to update systems or integrate new ones.

IT partners offer their services to many different companies and therefore need to ensure that they are using the latest technology. Because most of these services are offered over the Web, they can pass along the features and updates to your business without you having to invest in new technology.

Beyond this, many MSPs offer full-service solutions that include picking the best technology for your business. They can install systems based on your budget and also manage them, ensuring that systems remain up-to-date and fully support your business needs.

5. Ensure compliance

Many industries like healthcare, education, finance, and real estate, require that businesses comply with strict regulations regarding technology and its use. Some governments even require that all businesses meet privacy regulations, making it difficult for businesses to know what the requirements are and if they are actually compliant.

IT partners also operate in these industries and are compliant. This means that they can often ensure that your business and systems are also meeting regulations.

If you are looking for an IT partner who can help your business get the most out of your technology, contact us today to learn more about our managed services.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 23rd, 2014

BCP_July21_BWhile there are many different and important tasks a business needs to do, one of the most important is to back up data. Your data is important, and it really is a matter of when, not if, you will face a crisis where data will be lost. Most business owners realize this and do back up their data, but it can be a challenge to find a complete solution. In order to help, we have come up with eight data backup tips.

1. Pick the backup solution that works best for your business

When it comes to backing up the data on your company's computers and systems, most companies consider five main options:
  • Internal hard drives - You can either use another hard drive installed in your computer or partition an existing hard drive so that it functions as a separate drive on which you back your data up. This is a quick option, however should your computer or the hard drive fail - two of the most common computer failures - then you will lose this data.
  • External hard drives - These drives are essentially separate hard drives that you connect to your computer via a USB or other connection. Many of these drives allow for one touch backup and can be configured to back up data at certain times. While these can be useful, especially if you want to keep data backups easily accessible, they are prone to the same potential failure as internal drives.
  • Removable drives or media - For example, USB flash drives, DVDs, etc. These are great for backing up work you are doing at the moment or for transferring small files from one machine to another. These options are limited by smaller storage sizes however, so backing up even one computer will likely require multiple disks or drives.
  • Cloud-based backup - This is the act of backing up your files to a backup provider over the Internet. Your files are stored off-site and can be restored as long as you have an Internet connection. For many businesses, this has become the main form of backup employed, largely due to cost and convenience - files can be backed up in the background. The biggest downside of this backup option however is that you do need an Internet connection for it to work and you will see more bandwidth being used, which could result in slower overall Internet speeds when files are being backed up.
  • NAS - Network Attached Storage, is a physical device that has slots for multiple hard drives. You connect this to your network and the storage space on the hard drives is pooled together and delivered to users. This solution is like a mix of cloud-based and external backup, only the device is usually in your office. While it is a good backup solution, it can get expensive, especially if you have a large number of systems to back up.
There are a wide variety of backup solutions available, so it is a good idea to sit down and figure out which are best for your business. The vast majority of companies integrate multiple solutions in order to maximize the effectiveness of their backups and spread the risk of losing data around a bit.

2. Split your backup locations

Despite all of the backup options available, you can narrow these down to two categories, the fact that the backups are kept in two locations:
  • On-site - Data backup solutions that are kept in your office. This could include internal hard drives, or NAS, and more. The idea here is that the data backup is kept in your office. Some like USB drives may leave the office, but the main idea is that they are used primarily in the office.
  • Off-site - Data backup solutions are stored off-site, or out of the office. The best example of this is cloud-based backup where your data is stored in a data center, most likely in another city. Another example is backing up to hard drives and storing them in a secure location outside of the office.
In order to ensure that your data backups are available should you need them you could split up the locations where they are kept. Should you keep all of your backups on hard drives in the office and there is damage to the premises, you could see your data disappear. One of the most effective strategies is to have one set of backups on-site, and another off-site which will ensure that should there be a disaster in one location, the other will likely be safe and you will still be able to access your data.

3. Establish a standard naming and filing system

Have you ever seen how people organize their hard drives? Some like to use folders and subfolders that are organized neatly, while others tend to throw files into one general folder. The same can be said for they way files are named - there's just so many differences.

Because of these differences, it can be difficult to back up and recover files properly. We recommend that you pick a naming and file system that every file and folder will follow across all systems. This means backups will be quicker, you will be able to see what is new, and you will spend less time organizing files.

Beyond this, an efficient naming and organization structure goes a long way toward making it easier to find files and recover them should your systems go down.

4. Determine which files need to be preserved

While it may be tempting to back every file and folder up, in an effort to maximize efficiency of your solution, it is better to not back everything up. We aren't saying don't back anything up, but you should take time to identify what files and folders are to be backed up. For example, screenshots that have been uploaded to the Web may not need to be kept.

The same can be said for non-work related files. While these may be important to your personal life, they likely aren't to the business so should not be backed up onto your business backups.

Look at each file and folder and see if it has something to do with business decisions, or is in anyway tied to your business. If it is then it is probably a good idea to keep it.

Stay tuned for the next four tips coming soon. If you would like to learn more about data backups in the mean time however, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 17th, 2014

BCP_July14_BThere is a good chance that you would like to see your business survive any future disaster, and any problems that follow as well. While it is nearly impossible to predict what the next disaster will be, it's easy to prepare for, especially if you have an effective business continuity plan. When it comes to these plans, there are many key metrics you need to be aware of and the most important two are RTO and RPO.

While both RTO and RPO are important elements of continuity plans, and they both sound fairly similar, they are actually quite different. In this article we define RTO and RPO and take a look at what the difference is between the two concepts.

RTO defined

RTO, or Recovery Time Objective, is the target time you set for the recovery of your IT and business activities after a disaster has struck. The goal here is to calculate how quickly you need to recover, which can then dictate the type or preparations you need to implement and the overall budget you should assign to business continuity.

If, for example, you find that your RTO is five hours, meaning your business can survive with systems down for this amount of time, then you will need to ensure a high level of preparation and a higher budget to ensure that systems can be recovered quickly. On the other hand, if the RTO is two weeks, then you can probably budget less and invest in less advanced solutions.

RPO defined

RPO, or Recovery Point Objective, is focused on data and your company's loss tolerance in relation to your data. RPO is determined by looking at the time between data backups and the amount of data that could be lost in between backups.

As part of business continuity planning, you need to figure out how long you can afford to operate without that data before the business suffers. A good example of setting an RPO is to imaging that you are writing an important, yet lengthy, report. Think to yourself that eventually your computer will crash and the content written after your last save will be lost. How much time can you tolerate having to try to recover, or rewrite that missing content?

That time becomes your RPO, and should become the indicator of how often you back your data up, or in this case save your work. If you find that your business can survive three to four days in between backups, then the RPO would be three days (the shortest time between backups).

What's the main difference between RTO and RPO?

The major difference between these two metrics is their purpose. The RTO is usually large scale, and looks at your whole business and systems involved. RPO focuses just on data and your company's overall resilience to the loss of it.

While they may be different, you should consider both metrics when looking to develop an effective BCP. If you are looking to improve or even set your RTO and RPO, contact us today to see how our business continuity systems and solutions can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.