August 16, 2017

3 Steps for Backup & Recovery

Back Up And Restore Keys For Data SecurityLast week included World Backup Day, a reminder that it is never wise to have only one copy of any important electronic data.  But data backup is really only one component toward the real goal of data recovery.  The very worse day to test the ability to restore is on the day you need to restore the data.

A Wall Street Journal article on March 31 included these important 3 steps from Jennifer Walzer, CEO of BUMI (Back Up My Info).

  1. Develop a backup AND recovery plan.  This primarily involves planning, documentation and organization.  What do we need the ability to restore?  Where will it be stored?  Who has responsibility for maintaining it?
  2. Determine your RTO (Recovery Time Objective).  This is different for each business but revolves around the questions of what system access is most critical to ongoing business operations and how long can we survive without it.  This drives the tools and strategy.  In general, the more you say “everything at once” the more expensive it will be.
  3. Test your plan: According to Walzer, “I’ve been in the industry for 20 years now and I can’t get over how many people say, ‘we have a backup plan, we’re okay,’ but they aren’t testing it to make sure what they think they’re doing will help them get up and running faster.”  Things change.  People come and go.  Applications get updated.  If recovery testing is not part of your ongoing technology planning your plan is incomplete.

Because recovery needs vary, Onsite Logic works with a number of different backup tools to fit these different needs.  These range from simple data-only backups to fully redundant fail-over systems including the ability to run the business from the cloud in a catastrophic event.

Let our IT consulting team work with your team to help develop your company’s Backup and Recovery Plan.  The time to plan is when things are working.

Windows XP End-of-Life

cc468658.end-of-support(en-us,MSDN.10)We have approximately 8 months until the April 8, 2014 end-of-life date for Windows XP.  What does that mean and what should Onsite Logic clients do?

Windows XP based computers will continue to work after 4/8/14.  They don’t become disabled or experience any new issues on that date.  End-of-Life or End-of-Support means that Microsoft will no longer release any patches, updates or hot-fixes for the Windows XP system after that date.

Since most of the patches and updates are issued to close security vulnerabilities, the biggest risk of continuing to operate Windows XP machines on your local network will be security issues.  For some industries, such as financial services and medical services, this may translate into non-compliance.  For others it will simply mean that as time progresses and more security holes are left open (unpatched), your systems and data are more prone to being compromised through viruses and hacking.

Windows XP machines will also have compatibility issues with new software and websites.  Programs such as Microsoft Office 365 and Office 13 will not run on Windows XP after the 4/8/14 date.  This includes Hosted Exchange through Office 365.  Microsoft will also not upgrade the Internet Explorer browser in Windows XP beyond IE8 which means websites using features of the new browsers will either not open or not display properly.

The most important thing Small Business owners should be doing is planning.  Onsite Logic recommends planning for a maximum of a 5 year life-cycle for most of our client’s workstations.  This means that if you have 20 computers, you should be budgeting and planning to replace approximately 4 computers per year.  If you are using Hosted Exchange/Office 365, you’ll need to replace all XP machines within the next 8 months.  If you are not, we would still recommend a plan to replace them as soon as possible and no later than year end 2014.

Backup and Disaster Recovery: Getting Organized

ServerLast week we began discussing why small businesses need a good backup strategy.  Before we begin the discussion of various backup options, we need to talk about a little housekeeping.  Literally.

How your important company data, files and folders are stored and organized will make a huge impact on your ability to have an efficient, effective and sustainable backup and disaster recovery plan.  In many companies we see the equivalent of organizing by creating piles.  Mary does Quickbooks so the company file is on her computer.  Sara does graphics so those files are on her’s.  Everybody has their own email file and word and excel docs.  A pile here, a pile there.

I’ve watched a number of the “get organized” shows and it is clear that the making multiple piles strategy doesn’t work.  A better approach is to designate a home for the valuable items.  In technology, the more centralized those home spaces are, the easier they are to maintain and manage and protect.

For most companies this means a server.  The server can be onsite or off-site (in the cloud or at a hosting facility) but being easily accessible and fast are key elements.  If employees struggle to use or have problems accessing centralized data, they will quickly begin making their own copies.  While there are centralized storage appliance (Network Attached Storage-NAS), that are a flavor of “server light”, the limitations are often too restricting to small businesses.  A new Foundation Server for a small office with plenty of room and speed costs about $1700.

Servers have different hardware and software than workstations.  Specifically, they are designed to stay on for days, weeks and sometimes months at a time.  They normally are designed to control heat issues better and, because they are isolated from other activity, are less prone to viruses, malware and other software problems.  They also are normally built with redundancy so they can continue to operate and serve up files and data even in a situation like a hard drive failure.   Finally the server software is designed to allow multiple people to access data in a controlled and secure fashion.

If your company isn’t ready for a server financially, we recommend, at a minimum centrally storing files to an unused computer.  The fact that no one is surfing the web or checking email from the central storage computer significantly reduces the risk of malware and other software problems.

Not only can folders be created, shared and mapped from the centralized storage, but the folders you think of as being on your computer (my documents, my pictures) can be redirected so they automatically store to the server instead.

Our experience has been that 1 hour of planning and discussion about how to best organize and create a centralized home for important company information pays back over and over again in ease of use, access, security and efficiency.