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Business Continuity

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Data Backup and Recovery: Reaping the Benefits of the Cloud

By | Business Continuity, Cloud, IT Support

While some data loss is inevitable, how you respond to a data breach or business disruption can have a significant impact on your bottom line, or even your survival. With security threats coming from all directions―from malicious code and hackers to natural disasters―data loss is not a matter of if, but when.

Although most companies and their IT departments are aware of the risks, few make an effort to implement disaster recovery until it’s too late. With cyberattacks and internal security failures becoming more commonplace, companies are increasingly turning to disaster recovery in the cloud.

Data protection and recovery capabilities weigh heavily in cloud planning decisions, particularly in regulated environments. While it’s important to safeguard systems and infrastructure against unauthorized access or malicious threats, at the same time, it’s essential to balance these risks with the unique goals and long term objectives of your business.

The fundamental goal of disaster recovery is to reduce the impact of data loss or security breach on business performance. Cloud-based disaster recovery offers an effective way to do just that. In case of a data breach or loss, vital workloads can be failed over to a recovery site to enable business operations to resume. As soon as data is restored, you can fall back from the cloud and re-establish your applications and infrastructure to their original condition ―reducing downtime and minimizing disruption.

Disaster recovery in the cloud offers a particularly attractive option for small and mid-sized businesses that often lack sufficient budget or resources to build and maintain their own disaster recovery site.

 

Gaining a performance advantage

Compared to traditional methods, cloud computing disaster recovery is relatively straightforward to configure and manage. It can eliminate many hours of time moving backup data from tape drives or on-premises servers to recover following a disaster. Automated cloud processes help ensure rapid and trouble-free data recovery.

With the right configuration and a reliable provider, cloud-based disaster recovery can deliver a number of important benefits:

• Fast recovery

Thanks to its virtualization capabilities, cloud computing takes a wholly different approach to disaster recovery. With infrastructure encapsulated into a single software or virtual server bundle, when a disaster occurs, the virtual server can be easily duplicated or backed up to a separate data center and quickly loaded onto a virtual host. This can substantially cut recovery time compared to traditional (physical hardware) methods where servers are loaded with the application software and operating system and updated to the last configuration before restoring the data. For many businesses, cloud-based disaster recovery offers the only viable solution for helping to ensure business continuity and long-term survival.

• Cost savings

One of the biggest advantages of cloud-based data recovery over standard techniques is its lower cost. Traditional data backup requires deploying physical servers at a separate location, which can be expensive. Cloud configurations, however, enable you to outsource the amount of hardware and software you need while paying only for the resources you use. Without capital costs to worry about, the “pay-as-you-need” model helps keep your total cost of ownership low. You can also eliminate the need to store volumes of backup tapes that could be cumbersome and time consuming to access during an emergency. Smaller business can select a service plan that suits their budget. Managing the data doesn’t require hiring extra IT staff. Your service provider manages the technical details and tasks, allowing your team to focus on other priorities.

 

• Scalability

Relying on the cloud for your disaster recovery provides substantial operational flexibility advantages, allowing you to easily scale your capacity as workloads shift and business needs change. Instead of locking yourself into a certain amount of storage for a specific timeframe and stressing about whether you are exceeding those limits, you can scale your capacity as needed, with assurance that your recovery processes will meet your requirements. Cloud backup provides a high level of scalability, with the ability to easily add whatever capacity you need. As your business grows, your backup systems can scale along with them. You simply adjust your service plan from your provider and request additional resources as your needs shift.

 

• Security.

Despite the security concerns of cloud infrastructure, implementing a cloud-based disaster recovery plan is quite safe and reliable with the right service provider. Most providers offer comparable, if not better security protection than many on-premises environments. Still, in the area of disaster recovery and business continuity, there is little room for error. Be sure to perform your due diligence and ask the difficult questions when evaluating the provider who will be backing up your critical business data.

 

• Redundant capabilities.

A cloud environment can provide a level of redundancy that would be cost prohibitive to create with on-premises infrastructure. This redundancy is achieved through additional hardware and data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe measures. By capitalizing on specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and cost efficient backup capabilities than on-premises systems. Redundancy helps ensure you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of type of event or how the data was lost. This redundancy extends to other cloud components from power to connectivity to hosts and storage.

• Reliability.

In terms of vital business data, cloud-based data recovery offers a highly reliable failback and business continuity solution. In the event of a business disruption, workloads are shifted automatically to a separate location and resumed from there. The failover process helps ensure maximum data availability. After the problems at the initial site are solved, the applications and workloads can be transferred back to original location. It also enables faster backup restoration than traditional disaster recovery methods. Workload transfer and failover require only a few minutes. Conventional recovery techniques typically take longer as the migration uses physical servers deployed in a separate location. You might also decide to migrate your data in a phase approach, depending on the volume of data you are backing. While backup and failover processes are often automated in cloud-based systems, you still want to regularly test the operation on specific network sites to ensure critical production data is not impacted or corrupted in any way.

 

Building an effective backup and recovery strategy

Most businesses today are benefitting from the inherent efficiency advantages of cloud infrastructure of and its ability to help scale resources, and optimize assets and improve backup and recovery performance. As market demands fluctuate and businesses seek greater agility, cloud-based recovery is expected to continue to expand across industry sectors.

While there is no magic blueprint for the perfect back up and recovery configuration, a good first step is making sure you have implemented failover measures for all your connected devices. A common point of entry of many attacks is through outdated firmware on connected devices. Therefore, you’ll want to make you’re your devices and networks are hardened effectively equipped to protect against cyberattacks.

At the heart of any good disaster recovery plan is a guiding document that defines specific procedures and processes to be carried out in event of a disaster. This detailed action plan factors in multiple scenarios with defined steps to mitigate the impact of an event and enables critical business systems and processes to be recovered and restored quickly and efficiently.

After identifying and prioritizing the data and applications and you’ve defined your recovery time objectives, your business can establish a solid foundation for a cloud-based disaster recovery solution.

Depending on the extent of your need and availability of resources, closing the gaps between business needs and disaster recovery capabilities can be an extended, protracted process. No matter how long it takes, the effort to create a solid, well-crafted plan will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.

signs your computer may have malware or a virus

Surefire Signs You’re Infected With Spyware, Malware, and Viruses

By | Business Continuity, IT Support, Security, Technology

On average, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds. Unfortunately, hackers hide malicious programs, and there are no visible signs that your device is infected. Once your device is compromised, you need to take action right away to prevent additional harm.

Signs Your Computer Is Infected

Does it seem like your computer has slowed down? Does it crash frequently? If your computer has been acting differently, there may be a reason why. After malware infects a device, you may notice pop-up ads or speed issues.

The most common signs of infection are:

  • You get pop-up ads all of the time for no apparent reason.
  • Your home page has switched on its own, and you are unable to change its settings.
  • You may also have new toolbars that you never created.
  • Unexplained files appeared on your computer.
  • You noticed that your email account sent emails, but you did not send them.
  • Your desktop files have been deleted or moved.
  • The icons on your toolbars or desktop have disappeared.
  • A second or third browser opened up behind your primary browser window, but you did not open them.
  • You get runtime errors when you use Outlook Express or MS Outlook.
  • Your computer crashes frequently or is unstable. It may be sluggish if it is infected.

The previous signs are indications that there is a problem with your computer. You will need a professional technician to help you remove it and to be aware of the common misconceptions about hackers and malicious programs.

The Four Most Common Misconceptions

1. You Can Easily Remove Malicious Programs

Unfortunately, spyware and viruses can be difficult to remove. On very few occasions, you might be able to remove malicious programs using a free download. Still, in many cases, malicious programs cannot be detected or eliminated using these software programs since hackers embed them deeply in the operating system. When this happens, you need the help of an experienced professional to detect and remove the program.

In extreme instances, the only solution is to wipe the hard disk completely. To do this, the technician must delete every file before installing the operating system all over again. Eliminating all of your data is never the first option, but it may be your only choice. Some malicious programs are so crafty and complex that the only way to get rid of them is by deleting everything.

2. My Computer Is the Problem

When someone suffers from viruses, they often blame their computer. They think that the computer would not have a problem if it were more expensive or better made. In reality, most malicious programs happen because of human error, getting onto a device because of the user.

You or one of your employees could have unknowingly clicked on the wrong link or downloaded a malicious file. Do not blame yourself too much, though. Cybercriminals are talented at making malicious programs look like innocent files. They make their malicious programs seem like ordinary activities you do all the time, which is why you feel comfortable clicking on them.

Some downloads may look innocent, but they could have spyware. For instance, your employee may download a software program that ages their pictures or gives them new emoticons. While these programs seem innocent, they could include malicious code. As soon as your employee downloads one of these programs, the malicious program can infect your entire network.

Avoid downloading any free program you find online. Avoid screen savers and enhanced browsers, and carefully read through the terms and conditions before you download an application. Often, the terms and conditions will specifically include clauses that allow the software vendor to install malicious programs on your device. It would help if you also stop your employees from downloading any online applications.

Unfortunately, your computer can be infected through other techniques as well. For example, you should regularly update your current programs. Each program has security patches that prevent hackers from accessing your computer. If you do not get these patches, then hackers may be able to access your device when you accidentally click on a banner ad or email attachment.

Security patches are incredibly important because hackers are always creating new ways to access devices. For example, some hackers discovered how to install malicious programs using Internet Explorer without requiring any clicks or downloads. The malicious program would install on your computer, even if you didn’t click on anything. Making sure your computer has all of Microsoft’s latest updates and patches to prevent this kind of attack.

If you want to protect your personal information and device, you should avoid peer-to-peer file sharing. Hackers and cybercriminals love these sites, so they are full of malicious programs. In many cases, the source of a company’s malicious attack is a peer-to-peer site.

3. Maintenance Is Unnecessary—My Computer Works Fine.

Even if your computer seems to be working fine right now, it still needs to be appropriately maintained. Think of a computer like a car. You have to change the oil and replace the brakes regularly if you want to avoid spending more money and time on repair costs later.

With a computer, there are maintenance checks you need to do daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. For example, spam filtering and virus updates should occur daily. A spyware sweep and system backups should take place every week. Meanwhile, defragmenting your disk and updating your security patches should be done every month or quarter.

A good technician will tell you about the regular maintenance you need to do to your computer. Your technician should offer to do things like configuring automatic system backups, spam filtering, and virus definition updates. To be protected, these system backups must be stored away from your company so that your backups are safe from natural disasters.

If the technician you’re working with does not offer to do regular maintenance, find someone else. Routine maintenance prevents significant repair costs later on, and the lack of it is one of the top reasons why people have high repair bills and lose important files.

There are only two reasons why a technician will not perform routine maintenance. In some cases, the technician is inexperienced and does not know what they are doing. Some technicians do not want to do maintenance work because they know that they will make more money from repairing problems. Both of these reasons are signs that you should find a different vendor.

4. Microsoft’s Operating System Offers All of the Protection I Need

It seems intuitive that a computer would sell with everything you need to use it. Sadly, this is not the case. Microsoft does not equip its devices with all of the security features they need. If you do not protect your computer, you will be vulnerable to viruses, data loss, and cybercriminals.

Protecting your device requires a multi-faceted approach. No one vendor is capable of providing every single security feature you need. It is crucial to find an experienced technician you trust to get the protection you need.

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Conducting an In-Depth Review of Your Current Backup System

By | Business Continuity, IT Support, Security

The Challenge

Backing up your data and the ability to quickly and fully recover it in the event of a natural disaster or ransomware attack is critical to the stability of your company. If malware damaged your server beyond repair or a ransomware attack hit you, and all of your files were locked, corrupted, or erased, how fast could you get back up and running again?

And it doesn’t end there. You may still experience data loss even while backing up your server. Most business owners know that it is crucial to backup their server(s). But they forget about their desktops, laptops, and Macs. Even if quite a bit of your data is stored on your servers and backed up on your network, your computers themselves may not be. Your icons, background, all of your settings, local files, the music and pictures you have stored, and all of your software applications are most likely not being backed up.

If your company’s computers were to crash, get a virus, or simply die, all of that information could be lost. The company data that you’ve saved to your server would still be there if you are saving everything to your server (a big if for many people), but everything else would be gone. You would have to recreate each computer by reloading all of the software and settings. And if you’ve ever had this happen to you, you know that it can take a significant amount of time to do, and time is money.

So, either at the macro (server) or micro (computer) level, having the appropriate backup system is crucial to keep your company running efficiently at all times.

 

Our Recommendation

We recommend conducting an in-depth review of your current backup system.

  • Determine the data that is critical to your business so you can make sure you are indeed backing it up.
  • Guard yourself against the more sophisticated attacks we see today by putting a more robust, ransomware-proof backup system in place.
  • Review what data you have and its location. Unfortunately, it’s typical to find critical data on laptops and other devices that are not being properly backed up.
  • Identify the processes, such as payroll or client-facing services, that are crucial and cannot be down for an extended time.
  • Discover your tolerance for downtime. How long could you be without access to your server, files, e-mail, Internet, and other processes before it starts costing you real money?
  • What’s the plan for an actual disaster? What will you do if your team can’t get to your data because of a fire, flood, or natural disaster?

The End Goal

The purpose of these questions is to:

  1. Get an awareness of the risks and limitations of your current backup.
  2. Use your answers to map out a disaster recovery plan so you won’t have to face any unpleasant surprises should a disaster happen.
  3. Help you choose the disaster recovery system that fits your budget and priorities.

 

Next Steps

Not comfortable conducting your own review? BACS’s Disaster Recovery, Security, and Backup Audit will reveal how quickly your business could recover after a server crash, natural disaster, virus attack, or other data-erasing catastrophes. We make it easy for you not to push this “important, but not urgent” action item to the back burner.

Our Disaster Recovery, Security, and Backup Audit determines:

  • How fast could you recover if a disaster were to happen?
  • How secure is your data…really?
  • Are you backing up all your critical data every day?
  • Are you protected from hackers, viruses, and even simple mistakes?
  • Do you know what steps would be involved to rebuild your server and recover your data if you had to and how much they would cost?

If we don’t find any issues, you’ll have peace of mind about the security of your network and the fact that you would experience a quick recovery in the event of a disaster. But if we do find a few gaps, you’ll be able to fix them before you experience an unexpected catastrophe.

 

The Most Common Reasons for a Server to Malfunction

Here are some of the most common reasons why the performance of a server geta affected or stops altogether.

  • Physical causes. Accidents such as falling from a rack, fire, or a flood can cause severe server issues.
  • Power supply failures. Missing power results in servers shutting down.
  • Hardware problems. Overheating can cause server failure.
  • Software problems. Database issues can result in servers malfunctioning.
  • External actions. External attacks or malware can also end up in a server going down.

How Can Backup Issues Harm You?

Even though it’s challenging to add up specific figures, backup issues have a real economic impact. The actual calculations depend on multiple factors, such as:

  1. Loss of sales. The server that supports the website’s cart is down.
  2. Service loss. Not being able to purchase from you will force prospects to buy from your competitors. And even worse, some of those people, disappointed by not being able to buy from you, might not try to do it again in the future.
  3. Productivity loss. If your team is unable to use the systems and programs they need, preventing them from working, productivity will decrease.
  4. Customer service issues. What if billing is down, affecting your customers, and having them worry about the security of their personal data?
  5. Reputation problems. A website or a billing system failure will not only affect you in the specific moment in which they occur, but they can convey a negative image of your company, with all the negative consequences that this may entail.

The biggest challenge BACS faces in protecting you (and other companies) is your thinking. Many business owners think like this:

  • these problems won’t happen to me,
  • our company is too small, or
  • we don’t have the kind of information a hacker wants.

Or they think that if it does happen to them, the damages won’t be significant. That may have held 10 to 20 years ago, but it does not hold today.

Act now, in partnership with us, to develop a disaster recovery plan that fits your budget and priorities. We are here to help.

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Top 10 Most Expensive & Deadly Computer Disasters

By | Business Continuity, Security

Imagine the frustration of losing a couple of hours of work on your computer.

Now imagine losing days and even weeks. Or, imagine losing critical data like your client database and those clients’ financial records. Imagine not being able to access your email or any of the information on your computer. What is the level of your frustration now?

Many small business owners ignore the natural disasters that can destroy all their data or tend to forget to implement an emergency recovery plan. They fail to take steps to secure their company’s network from these types of catastrophes until disaster strikes, and by then, it’s too late. Think about these facts:

  • Sixty percent of small businesses will experience a significant network or technology disaster
  • The average cost of these technology disasters ranges from $9,000 to $60,000 in repairs and restoration costs
  • 99% of businesses claim to be “too busy” to think about network security and maintenance
  • An auto body shop spends $20,000 to clean up a virus
  • A health products company spends $40,000 and suffers nine days of downtime from two corrupted hard drives
  • A property management company pays $9,000 and experiences weeks of downtime for a simple, inexpensive repair

And now think about this: you can avoid 100% of these disasters and restoration costs easily and inexpensively. Yes, it’s impossible to plan for every potential computer disaster or emergency. Still, you can take simple steps to prevent the top 10 most significant threats and disasters that wipe out businesses from happening to you.

 

Viruses and Worms

Viruses remain the most common type of security threat for your network.  They can do a wide range of damage from displaying annoying popups to corrupting all your files and hurting your company’s reputation. Imagine unknowingly spreading a virus to a customer, or imagine a virus hijacking your email address book.

Worms don’t need a host file to infect your network, making them even more dangerous than viruses. They are often embedded in emails. The infected computer can make quick copies of itself and affect an entire network in just a few hours, making worms responsible for a good number of companies’ widespread network failures.

Make sure to install anti-virus software on every computer and laptop in your office. Once you install it, don’t forget about it. Monitor your network, making sure every machine has the most up-to-date version installed and making sure the software isn’t accidentally disabled.

 

Not Keeping An Offsite Copy Of Your Data, or Not Even backing up at all

Most small businesses never back up their computer network, or only keep an on-site copy of their data. Imagine this: you write the most crucial piece of information you could ever write on a chalkboard. Can you get it back if I come along and erase it? Unless you copied it, you can’t recover the data. It’s gone forever. There are many ways to lose data. If the information is essential to you, make sure you have more than one copy of it.

The first step in prevention is to make sure you have a good on-site copy of your data. Second, you must have an additional off-site copy. No one considers natural disasters. But should you consider the possibility of theft? Or, what if a nearby office catches fire or if a faulty sprinkler system waters your server room? And, what if your data becomes corrupt or a hardware failure erases your data?

 

Not Performing Back-ups Tests


Many business owners set up some type of back-up system and never check to make sure it’s working correctly. It’s typical for a system to appear to be backing up when it’s not. Perform a restore of your data monthly to see if it can be restored and to see if your data is intact.

Trojan Horse Malware Attacks

Trojan horses hide in innocent items like screen savers, computer games, or even YouTube videos. They are challenging to remove, so preventing them from happening is what you want to do. Educating your employees is not enough to protect against Trojan horses because hackers come up with new, innovative strategies to access your network all the time. Instead, block users from downloading freeware and computer games, as well as embedded links in emails, and even block all websites that are not on an approved list of websites that employees may visit.

 

Spam

Spam is a malicious menace every business faces. In addition to killing office productivity and introducing viruses, worms, and Trojan attacks, spam can take up enough bandwidth to crash your network. Fortunately, a good email filter may be all you need.

 

Lack of A Secure Firewall

Small business owners have the mindset that hackers would not waste time trying to access their networks when nothing is further from the truth. There have been experiments where, within hours, malicious code took over gigabytes of space from a single computer connected to the Internet without a firewall. Remember that there are thousands of unscrupulous hackers out there who think it’s fun to disable your computer just because they can. Maintaining a secure firewall can save your business a lot of headaches.

 

Failing to Install The Most Up-To-Date Security Patches and Updates

Software companies continuously discover security loopholes within their programs that hackers use to access your network. That is why these companies offer free patches and updates to their users. The irony is that most hackers do not discover these security loopholes on their own; they learn about them when the software vendor discloses the vulnerability and issues the patch or update. The announcement is the hacker’s cue to action. And the time gap between the solution and the exploit gets shorter every day. That is why it’s critical to keep an eye out for security updates and patches and install them quickly.

 

Phishing Attacks

Phishing refers to spam emails designed to trick recipients into clicking on a link to an insecure website. The intention is to steal passwords and account information for e-commerce sites and credit card and bank account numbers. Most of us have received the infamous PayPal emails alerting us that our account is going to be deactivated or closed if we don’t log in to verify our account information. To prevent phishing attacks, you can educate employees on how hackers try to phish account information and remind them to never enter personal information in a web site solicited via an email

 

Hardware Loss and Residual Data Fragments

Did you know that stolen laptops and computers are a significant contributor to the 10 million cases of identity theft suffered by Americans each year? What can you do for prevention?

  • Encrypt sensitive company data (especially on laptops used by employees who frequently travel)
  • Wipe and shred files on old hard drives before they leave your organization
  • Develop a policy for tracking smartphone and USB memory card use around sensitive data

 

You And Your Staff

End-user mistakes are often the biggest threat to the security of your network. Whether someone downloads a virus, accidentally deletes a critical folder or file, visits shady web sites, or shares confidential information, end-users are usually at the root of every computer problem. In most cases, these actions are not intentional, but the effects of a virus are the same whether the download was deliberate or purely by accident. On-going education on proper email, Internet, and computer usage and regular maintenance and monitoring of your critical data and systems is the prevention we recommend.