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June 1st, 2015

BusinessContinuity_June1_ACompanies of all sizes today are aware of the data security risks posed by unexpected disasters, and so have a business continuity plan in place to prevent data loss. But entrusting data backup to the average IT guy is a certain way to lose your critical business data, since making configurations and changes to managed backups can be downright complex and confusing. That’s why you should turn to cloud hosting for a more simple data backup and recovery process. Here’s why you’ll want to utilize cloud computing in your business continuity plan.

Better uptime

Backing up to an internal drive or an external hard drive won’t completely secure data. If someone steals your computer, you lose the hard drive and the backup. Natural disasters or man-made errors will also likely destroy your backups. Your company could face expensive downtime if your backups are lost or damaged. With cloud-hosted backup, however, things are different. The entire purpose of a cloud backup is to make sure your data is available when you need it. Top cloud service providers will offer redundancy, which means they will make a backup of your backups. This increases uptime and ensures optimum levels of data availability.

Fast resource provisioning

When backups are being implemented, spikes in user activity or cloud environment accessibility can rise rapidly and slow down a website or other running systems. This is where a cloud hosting provider comes in. By closely monitoring user activities, providers can see spikes either before or as they are happening. The provider will provision more resources and virtual machines to manage the influx of users. This type of flexibility is particularly useful for when data backups are in process.

Backup frequency

Most companies work on files and update information throughout the day, so it’s important to have a real-time backup plan ready in case an unexpected disaster occurs. When you backup data to the cloud, you will no longer have to worry about managing the frequency of your backups. Most cloud-hosted providers offer hourly, daily, monthly, or other fixed backup frequencies, while others let you set your own backup schedule. Some of the services offered by these providers will back up files as you make changes, so you’ll know that the very latest version of files and data are always backed up.

Distributed infrastructure

Cloud-hosted backup literally means the delivery of data backup to users all over the world. Selecting the right type of cloud hosting partner is equally as important as having a cloud backup plan in the first place. If international users are trying to access database or download applications through your business website, latency will become a factor - the closer the user is to the data, the faster they’ll be able to access information. A suitable cloud hosting partner will be able to provide backup servers at the location that best suits your company’s business continuity needs. Distributed infrastructure is beneficial if you’re looking to support a large number of worldwide users.

Businesses everywhere are utilizing cloud backup solutions - don’t be the one left behind. If you’re looking for a managed cloud backup service to protect your business data, give us a call today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 26th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_May26_AEvery business owner knows that having a business continuity plan in place is crucial to the success of their organization. Yet even if your business continuity framework is at the ready, when the unexpected does happen the question that many overlook is how confident they are in taking care of the backbone of the business — their employees? With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five deadly business continuity mistakes to avoid at all costs.

Mistake #1: Assuming your employees will be there to support you

Companies that survive unexpected incidents are the ones that thought about their employees’ needs. It is important that your management team are aware of the business continuity plan’s SWOT analysis, which examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you face in a disaster. Review and obtain formal management sign-off on the SWOT analysis and have your management team make decisions in advance about actions that require expenditure.

Review decisions on paying all employees during a period of business interruption for a minimum period of time. Communicate your strategy and message to your employees to let them know that you will be there to support them and their families in the event of a crisis. This way, your employees will have peace of mind knowing you and the company are there for them, and in turn they will be there to support you.

Mistake #2: Using only words, not actions

Once you have your business continuity plan documented and your SWOT signed off, you need to think about the small stuff to ensure your plan is executable. This includes logistical considerations like food, travel and living requirements, medical aid and monetary support.

Walk the walk and ensure your medical providers have made arrangements in advance. Have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place to make sure your employees have access to people who can give them support in the event of an incident. Staff will remember if you provided them with care and support, and will remember even more clearly if you didn’t.

Mistake #3: Not showing your employees how the plan will work

While many business owners worry about downtime, they overlook the fact that explaining the plan and its execution to employees is critical to minimizing lost productivity.

As part of your maintenance program, include your employees as well as your security, medical and EAP team in the testing process. Execute a live test where various providers can demonstrate their capability to support your employees. This way, your employees will know that you care and can have faith you will be able to support them when the tables have turned.

Mistake #4: Not dealing with your employees first

When an incident occurs, the first assessment most businesses make is to determine the impact it has on the company. But how do you execute that process without people? When disaster strikes, your employees will naturally want to be taking care of their families, not your business.

Ensure your crisis management team addresses the people issues first. Where are they? What do I need to do for them? Are there any special employee needs I must address? After having accomplished this, you gain the ability to show your people that you’re in control and that you truly care.

Mistake #5: Reacting rather than communicating

In the event of a disaster, the most important thing to get right is communication. It is imperative that your employees know you can provide them with the most up-to-date information.

Set up a toll-free hotline so your employees can call in for regular updates, or create an open forum where your employees can tell you what you could have done better and what failed. With that, you provide consistent messaging and you can eliminate second-hand information and employee guesswork, while gaining insight into what could have been improved.

If your business continuity plan takes into account that your employees are your biggest assets, you’ll have peace of mind knowing the core of your organization is still standing strong even if the worst should happen.

Looking to learn more about business continuity and how it can help your business? Contact us today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 4th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_May4_AIn today’s business world, companies with a business continuity plan (BCP) are more likely to survive a disaster than those that don’t have one. There are several components to consider when it comes to planning a BCP, some of which are more important than others and must be included in order for a BCP to be successful. If you’re looking to create a BCP, or already have one in place but aren’t convinced of its efficiency, check out these must-read principles.

Backup strategies are tested regularly

Most businesses nowadays, if not all, employ technological tools to assist in managing their everyday business operations. As a result, a massive amount of data is stored on their on-site servers. Should a disaster strike, all valuable information would be damaged or lost. Backup plans are advisable, of course, but even these are useless without regular check-ups and testing. You’ll want to verify that your backups include all of your company’s strategic data, and that they are fully functional in the event of a disaster.

All employees are involved

Your employees are the essence of your business. They help drive your business forward, and therefore each and every one of them needs to understand the essentials of your business continuity plan. Schedule a meeting with each department, outlining everyone’s role in the plan, then revise the plan again with the whole company. Make sure everyone has a part to play in order to avoid having some employees feeling left out. Be sure to also let your employees know that they are your most valuable assets, and that you’re willing to help them in any way you can during a disaster, whether it’s encouraging them to prepare an emergency plan for their families or allowing them to work remotely from home if necessary.

Identify and prioritize critical functions

What are your company’s greatest strengths? A good business continuity plan exposes your most important business functions. All inventories and resources related to those functions must be accurate and created in advance. But sometimes, determining truly critical functions can be a real challenge - and incorrect assumptions can cripple the whole BCP, so this needs to be addressed in the early stages of planning. Once you’ve identified your critical business functions, you’ll be able to continue your business operations smoothly, even if not quite normally, during a disaster.

Succession plans exist for key employees

This is one of the most often overlooked aspects in a business continuity plan. Key employees are the life and soul of a BCP, usually having the knowledge and expertise that precede the plans on paper. Are you able to execute the plan if your key employee is missing? Do a simple test without your key members. Put an alternative candidate in charge of the situation and forbid the key employee from participating and giving direct instructions. Assign alternates for each part of a BCP, and ask them to perform disaster recovery functions in place of key employees. Having two people to count on is always better than one!

Having a BCP is one thing, but having one that actually works well is something you should strive to achieve. If you’re planning to implement a business continuity plan in your company, contact us today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 20th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Apr20_AUnexpected disasters can completely catch your business off guard, and when they do you’ll have a hard time trying to get things back in order. Most business owners are aware of potential problems, so they usually have a business continuity plan (BCP) already in place. But testing these plans to find loopholes and room for improvements is equally as important as creating one in the first place. That’s why every BCP has an ‘exercise’ phase where the plan is put through a series of trials by the whole company. Here are some tried-and-true procedures.

Set objectives

The first step to any efficient exercise is having clear objectives. Think about the results you want to see at the end of the exercise. These outcomes may include, but are not limited to, IT disaster recovery, evacuation routines, off-site recovery plans, and supplier management. If there are measurable targets that can be put into the equation, then all the better. For instance, meeting a recovery objective after a disaster within x number of hours.

Select the right type of exercise

Essentially there are four levels of exercises, each increasing in complexity and difficulty.
  • A walkthrough - this exercise involves a team meeting to discuss whether the present BCP has everything covered and is up-to-date.
  • Desktop exercise - ideal for new or intermediate teams. A desktop exercise takes place in a room where delegates discuss a fictional scenario delivered via a series of powerpoint presentations. Role-playing and dramatic simulations are not part of this stage of the process.
  • Functional exercise - this level allows employees to perform their duties in a simulated environment. It is designed to exercise specific team members, procedures, and resources in the event of a disaster.
  • Live or real time - this is a full-scale exercise performed in real time with normal business suspended. The aim is to see whether people can do what’s expected of them within a set timescale. A live exercise is often complicated and costly to organize, but will generally ensure a much smoother process if the worst does happen.

Develop a scenario

Take what you’ve learned from the team, the objectives and plan to develop a scenario. Depending on the type of exercise, you should have a scenario tailored to suit your objectives. Be creative when simulating incidents. You may need only two or three to keep your employees busy for a couple of hours - during that time you can monitor their performance.

Prepare employees

Assign a group of representatives responsible for making announcements and preparing conference rooms to relay the plan to employees. Be specific about who in the company are participants, observers, and facilitators for the purposes of the exercise. Explain courses of actions to everyone involved in the plan. Remember, your BCP’s success depends on your employees’ cooperation, so do your best when you’re clarifying the plan.

Run the exercise!

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. After careful planning and scheduling, it’s time to put your plan into action. Make sure you observe the exercise closely and ask yourself these questions: Are there any potential areas that can be improved? What should you do more of, or differently? What went well, and what didn’t? End the exercise with a feedback session where employees can express their opinions and share their ideas.

If you don’t get it right the first time, then go back to the drawing board and schedule another exercise. It only gets better with every practice.

Are you ready even if disaster should strike? Contact us today and we can help you develop a business continuity plan that keeps your company in the game.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 6th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Apr6_AAs a business owner you put everything into its success - your time, skills, and financial resources. With that in mind, you should take important steps to secure your business in the event of a disaster. Disasters, whether in the form of floods or IT system failures, compromise your company’s hard-earned reputation and client trust. You never know when a disaster may strike, and having a disaster recovery plan in advance can help your business get back on its feet more quickly. If you haven’t already put a disaster recovery plan in place, here are four disaster protection tips for your business.

Cloud backup

One of the most serious side effects disasters inflict on your business is preventing access to data. This is a major inconvenience, especially if you need to communicate with clients on a daily basis. Make sure all your crucial data is safe by using a cloud-based backup solution. With the power of the cloud, your files are stored and accessible from anywhere, and at any time. Cloud backup provides convenience and enhanced uptime, ensuring business continuity during a disaster.

Get disaster insurance

Disaster insurance can help cover the costs of repairing damage caused by certain disasters. Many business owners think they have sufficient insurance coverage, only to find out later that their policy didn’t cover a disaster scenario. Take the time to consult with your insurance agent to understand what is, and what is not, covered by your insurance. If necessary, consider buying additional coverage from your insurance provider.

Prepare your employees

Many businesses regard employees as their most valuable assets. In the event of a disaster you will rely on them not only to execute the disaster recovery plan, but to also keep your business running. Unfortunately, if your employees or their families are also affected by a natural disaster, they won’t be able to concentrate on their work. That’s why you need to prepare your staff for coping with a disaster as well as your business. It could be something as simple as issuing a handbook to cope with crises, sending emails to alert employees, or preparing emergency supplies and communication devices to meet immediate needs.

Create a contingency plan

Review all your business operations and identify areas that are crucial for your organization’s survival. Establish a procedure for managing those functions during a disaster. For instance, you can make a list of all suppliers and their contact information. If your suppliers are located near your business, you should have secondary contacts in other locations. Establish an assembly place where your employees can continue to run the business if your main premises become inaccessible. Once you have a contingency plan in place, make sure you review it with your employees at least twice a year so you don’t forget any crucial details.

When your business is hit by a disaster, the top priority is to keep your daily operations running as normally as possible. If you want to learn more about planning for a disaster, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 23rd, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Mar23_AA business continuity plan (BCP) is often defined as a method of putting businesses back on their feet in the event of a disaster. With this in mind, companies are increasingly concentrating their efforts on developing a BCP so that, when unexpected disasters strike, they can minimize damage and continue to function as normally as possible. But with many abbreviations and terms that may sound unfamiliar to average employees, or even business owners or managers, understanding these common BCP terms is vital.

Battle box - a tool box where necessary equipment and vital information are stored. These objects and pieces of information should be useful in a disaster. Typical items include a first aid kit, laptop, protective equipment, and communication devices.

Business impact analysis (BIA) - a process to evaluate the impact that a disaster may have on a business. The BIA shows what a business stands to lose if some parts of its functions are missing. It allows you to see the general picture of your business processes and determine which ones are the most important.

Call tree - a comprehensive list of employee contacts and their telephone numbers. Call trees are used to notify out-of-office employees about a disaster. Companies can use a software program to contact people on the call tree by sending automated emails and text messages. In order for a call tree to work, employees should provide alternative contact options and their information must be up to date.

Data mirroring - a duplication of data from its source to another physical storage solution or the cloud. Data mirroring ensures that crucial information is safe, and companies can use the copied data as backup during a disaster.

Exercise - a series of activities designed to test a company’s business continuity plan. When an exercise is carried out, there will be an evaluation to decide whether a BCP is meeting standards or not. An exercise can identify gaps in, and the drawbacks of, a BCP and is therefore used as a tool to revise and improve a business continuity plan.

Hot site - an alternate location equipped with computers, communication tools and infrastructures to help a business recover information systems affected by the disaster.

Plan maintenance - a process of maintaining a company’s business continuity plan so that it is in working order and up to date. Plan maintenance includes scheduled reviews and updates.

Recovery time objective (RTO) - a period of time in which companies must recover their systems and functions after a disaster. This is the target time for a business to ideally resume its delivery of products and services at an acceptable level. RTO may be specified in business time (e.g. one business day) or elapsed time (e.g. elapsed 24 hours).

Business continuity plans can be a hassle to design and implement without proper understanding of their requirements. If you want to learn how you can protect your business from disasters, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 9th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Mar09_AYou’ve been putting that business continuity plan off for months now, but you’ve finally decided to go through with it. You start by talking to members of your staff, partners and service providers. And it doesn’t take long to see that everyone has a different opinion about what to recover first when disaster strikes. The head of your IT department demands your servers are top priority, while your Vice President argues that without network security being reestablished pronto, your business is left vulnerable to even further damage. Who’s right? It may be difficult to decide. That’s why we’ve compiled these fundamental ideas to consider when drafting your business continuity plan.

Speak to many members of your organization

And not just your IT department - which may sound like a bit of an oxymoron coming from an IT provider’s blog. However, the reason behind this is simple. Suppose you have an IT staff member called Jane, who is responsible for a series of applications that automate your e-commerce system. If you call a business continuity meeting concerning to identify assets to prioritize during a disaster, what do you think Jane will say? She’ll likely point to her group of applications, since to her this is what she prioritizes and spends her days on. And it’s not just Jane; each staff member will probably voice that their particular job (whether that’s security, server maintenance or something entirely different) needs to be prioritized. It’s human nature to think of your responsibility and role first. We all do it.

The key is to get more than one opinion. It’s not a bad idea to start with the leaders of your company, and then work your way down. Leaders generally think in a broader sense about your organization as a whole, rather than one particular facet of it.

Consider where your business is going

When developing your business continuity plan, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about your business as it is today. While you’ll draft your plan in the present, it needs to be created with the future in mind. For example, if you’re considering joining the Cloud or virtualizing your servers in the next year or so, how is this going to impact your plan? It’s smart to think of this sooner rather than later, as it could cause a major shift in your priorities. If you start deploying your business continuity plan but then have to switch gears further down the line, it’ll likely cost your company a lot of money.

Examine the interdependency of your business

Remember to connect the dots between your IT department and business processes. For instance, if your email system can’t run without the use of a particular IT application, it will do no good for you to have your email system as a priority 1 issue and that IT application as a priority 3. In this scenario, the IT application would need the same priority as the email system - if not higher, or else your email system will simply not work.

The point is to map out the interdepencies of your business processes and IT, so that you know what depends on what. That way you’re not left in a pickle when disaster strikes.

Need help getting started with your business continuity plan? Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 2nd, 2015

Trouble aheadBusinesses are exposed to disasters all the time, including IT system failures, power outages, or even natural disasters. These causes will cripple your business unless you have a business continuity plan (BCP) ready. A good BCP allows your business to continue on running everyday operations seamlessly. It makes sure that you can service your customers in a satisfactory manner, even when you’re facing technical issues. Therefore it’s very important to come up with a continuity plan, if you don’t already have one.

Relevant factors such as your business’s resources, location, suppliers, customers, and employees must be carefully analyzed before a business continuity plan can be formed. It is also necessary to test the plan and check whether it’s working or not. Here are some proven methods to test your continuity plan’s efficiency.

Review the BCP

You have a business continuity plan ready with all the necessary information, contingency locations, personnel, contacts and service companies. The question is can you really pull it off? Have the plan reviewed regularly, or at least quarterly. Gather a team of individuals, heads of departments and managers to discuss the plan. Focus on the business continuity plan’s feasibility and pinpoint any areas where it might be strengthened.

Determine time and duration to test the plan

You should decide how often you test your business continuity plan, and for how long. Even if you have a solid plan in place, it’s still wise to review it again after a few months. Come up with a schedule for testing the plan and share it with employees. Testing time may take anywhere from one day to two weeks. However it can also take as little as three hours to determine the effectiveness of the plan by monitoring employees’ responses and decision-making abilities, based on the guidelines of the business continuity plan.

Outline objectives to employees

Most business continuity plans fail because they have never been properly relayed to employees. Emphasizing the plan’s importance to your business and demonstrating it to employees is crucial. You need to outline objectives for the business continuity test to your employees, informing them how you plan to measure its success and failure, so that they get a general idea of their roles and your expectations.

Create a scenario

Create a fake scenario that affects your business - whether it’s setting off fire alarms or announcing another disaster. Employees should act as though the scenario is genuine, and refer to their duties in the business continuity plan, going through it step by step. Monitor the time it takes to get everything under control, from contacting customers to checking business resources and temporary meeting locations.

Evaluation

After the business continuity plan is put to test, gather your employees to discuss the plan’s overall performance. Identify where it needs improvement and encourage the parts that worked best. Make changes to key persons and actions where necessary, to ensure that the continuity plan is working at its best.

Having a business continuity plan is good, but testing it regularly is equally important. Contact us today and see how we can help you cope with unexpected disasters.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 13th, 2015

BC_164_AIt’s Monday morning, you’re the first one into the office as usual. You take your keys out and unlock the door only to find your office in complete disarray. Documents are thrown everywhere, chairs are knocked over and the worst part - all of your computers are gone. To your right, you notice a smashed window and a trail of keyboards and cables. Then it hits you. You’ve been robbed. Situations like this can happen to businesses of all sizes. The question is, are you prepared? Here’s how you can create a business continuity plan that keeps you open and making profits when the unexpected strikes.

The difference between disaster recovery and business continuity

While it’s easy to overlook the differences between a disaster recovery and business continuity plan, there are actually some key variations you should be aware of.

Disaster recovery is the restoration of business operations and IT infrastructure after a disaster has already occurred. Business continuity, on the other hand, is focused on maintaining business operations and profits throughout a disaster. While disaster recovery is mainly focused on the slice of time immediately following a disaster (how you replace your equipment and restore IT infrastructure asap), business continuity looks at the bigger picture - the continuity of the company as a whole. It ensures you can run your business and maintain profits during the process of recovering from a catastrophe. It generally includes a disaster recovery plan as part of it.

Creating your business continuity plan

The first step in creating your plan is to identify which of your IT assets are vulnerable to disaster. To do this, you need to ask yourself some important questions, starting with what might happen if you were to lose the functionality of a specific asset for a day, a week or even longer. Answering this question will help you identify your most critical IT assets; the ones that are integral to your business operations.

Here are some other important questions to ask when drafting your business continuity plan:

  • What is the purpose of my business continuity plan?
  • What disasters can affect my IT infrastructure?
  •  What are my key business areas?
  • Which different business areas, assets and departments depend on each other?
  • What is the longest amount of time I can go without functionality of IT assets?
Once you can answer these, it’s time to start planning. Write down your thoughts, and then contact an IT provider like us for assistance. We’ve helped countless businesses just like yours prepare themselves in order to remain operational throughout catastrophes. We can also help you identify potential problems that you may not have thought of.

Need help creating your business continuity plan? Contact us today to see how we can help you stay running and turning profits when disaster hits.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 30th, 2014

BCP_Dec23_AWhen it comes to backing up your important business data, there are many options available to your company. One of the increasingly common choices is to use online or cloud-based backups. Despite the popularity of these systems, there is still confusion over what exactly online backup is and the benefits it can bring businesses.

What exactly is online backup?

In a wide sense, online backup is a backup system where your files, folders, and even systems, are backed up to an offsite storage server over your Internet connection. Tech experts also refer to this service as remote or cloud-based backup.

When you back up your files and systems to an online solution, your files are stored off site, usually in redundant data centers. This means that should something happen to your files you can access the system via another computer and restore your backups onto that computer, as long as you have an Internet connection.

For many companies, this is arguably the most efficient form of backup, not because of the backup method itself, but because of the fact that your backups are stored remotely The chance your data will be accessible if your business faces disaster increase, as data can be recovered quicker than most other systems.

How do online backups work

Like most other technical systems out there, there are numerous varieties of online backups. Some of the most effective are image-based, which take a snapshot of a computer or server at a specific time and then upload this to the remote backup servers. This snapshot contains the whole system as it is and can be easily recovered.

Other solutions can be automated to back up specific files and folders, and run through a Web-based interface that can execute a backup from almost anywhere. Beyond this, many systems can be managed by a company like us. We can implement a system that works best for your company and your data, and then manage it so that your data will always be available when you need it. Should something go wrong, we can even help you recover your systems.

4 Benefits of online backup

Companies that implement an online-based backup have been able to realize the following benefits:
  1. Decreased recovery time - Because your data is stored online, as long as you have an Internet connection you can begin recovery at the click of a button; there is no having to go find your backup, then figure out how to recover it. Most companies see a generally reduced backup recovery time when they implement an online system.
  2. Increased backup reliability - Over time, physical systems break and need to be replaced, and this can happen at any time. Because online systems are managed by other companies, whose main job is to ensure backups are always available, you see increased reliability with these systems.
  3. Decreased costs - Physical backup systems can be costly, especially if you have a large number of systems or a large amount of data to back up. Many online providers charge a flat monthly fee that often works out to be less costly than other solutions. Beyond this, you don't need to invest in physical backup solutions and the storage space to house and maintain these. As a result you should see lower costs.
  4. Increased data availability - As long as you have an Internet connection, your data will be available. This means you don't have to worry about your offsite physical data being okay, if you have a problem or disaster strikes on your premises. With online services data is available when you need it.
If you would like to learn more about online backup, contact us today and let us reveal just how dynamic and effective our solutions can be. Don't wait until you have to face a backup issue to back up your vital data!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.