Is your business continuity plan in place?

thumb-5 According to Symantec SMB, 50% of SMBs admit to having no backup and disaster recovery plan in place. 41% of those surveyed confessed that they had never even given much thought to implementing a disaster recovery or business continuity plan. If you are one of them, then you really need to think about whether you can afford the status quo.

Answering these questions will help you develop a business continuity plan.

1. How often is employee productivity and customer accessibility or service stalled each day from a downed network or system?

2. How much downtime can your business truly afford and what kind of backup or recovery solutions are in effect when systems are unavailable?

3. What level of IT support can be accessed? Can it be accessed quickly enough to minimize damage? Are you confident that your business can either be back online or be able to access lost data with minimal disruption, no matter what?

4. Is your most critical data frequently backed up? Is the data on the personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys of employees backed up? Are all backups stored in a location off-site and quickly accessible in the event of theft, fire or flooding? Are you using any custom installed software and is the supplier still in business should this software need to be re-installed or updated? Are account details, licensing agreements, and security settings somewhere on record, and is it duplicated off-site?

5. Are your systems truly protected from theft, hackers, and viruses? Are passwords to sensitive data changed whenever employees leave the company or business unit?

6. When was the last time you tested backup processes to ensure they are working properly? How quick were your back ups?

Answering these questions will help you understand if you are needlessly bleeding money every day by subjecting your business to the high hourly rates, service charges, trip fees and wait times of on-call IT support. If you are an SMB, you don’t have to fear technology failure. A trusted MSP can help you resolve these challenges in a more effective and efficient manner.

Keeping up with Technology – Speaker for your event?

With the rate of technology ever increasing and the importance it has on becoming a successful business, Michael is increasing his number of speaking engagements as a value add activity to surrounding communities.   He can easily adapt his talk to the audience or topic and speaks on all things technology and how to maximize it for your desired results.   Please let us know if you are interested in having Michael speak at your upcoming meeting.   Read Michael’s full bio below.   Thanks!

Keeping up with Technology Michael St Martin|Cognoscape|ITServices

Michael St. Martin

Learn what’s up with the latest technology trends and how “Strategic Technology Acceleration” can rocket your business forward.  Is your technology a competitive advantage?  Do you know how to leverage Cloud Computing? Mobile Devices? Is your network secure? Michael St. Martin will provide information and real world tips that you can use immediately to make your systems an asset instead of a liability.

Michael St. Martin is an entrepreneur and founder of Cognoscape, a Business Technology company that specializes in bringing Enterprise Class technology solutions to Small and Medium Business. While Cognoscape is the newest of Michael’s successful business ventures, his experiences include executive positions with Accenture, building sales organizations with NetIQ and Permeo and adding value to multiple IPOs’ and M&A’s.   His current passion resides in assisting business owners to utilize technology and gain a competitive advantage while streamlining their business.  

Michael has spoken to audiences both large and small, always imparting insight into the latest technology and how to apply it to the audience.   “My goal as a speaker is to give the audience something to take away immediately and apply to their business that day, while entertaining them along the way,” says Michael.   So… great and timely content, mixed with Michael’s engaging style motivates the audience into action!

Thoughts of families, friends, folks and oh yeah, business too…

Tornado data loss

With yesterday’s real world tornado examples in the DFW area, we give thought to our families, friends and folks in general.   We hope you are all well and were unaffected by the storm.   This is, of course is the most important of considerations.   At some point your thoughts as a business owner, partner or executive will turn to what effect something like this might have had on your livelihood.   Although secondary to wanting our families to be safe and secure we also want our business to be secure from catastrophe if it can be avoided.   With advances in Cloud Technology and Cloud Hosting Services you can be covered with redundant or failover data sites and Backup and Disaster Recovery solutions.

In light of the recent storm, we’ll provide free Business Continuity, Data Disaster and Backup and Disaster Recovery assessments for companies from 50 – 500 employees in the DFW area. This is a value we want to provide to the community at no cost. Something we can offer that could make a difference in the future of your business.

Contact us for your free assessment at 214 377-4884 or sign up on our website at https://www.cognoscape.com

Most people don’t realize how much they have invested in their data. The data you’ve accumulated over the years is one of your most valuable business assets. From customer contact information to accounting information to inventory, you need your data to operate your business.

Statistics show that on average, over 40% of businesses that do not have a Disaster Recovery Plan go out of business after a major loss like a fire, a break-in, a tornado, or sabotage.

 A successful data recovery in the least amount of time ensuring that your business continues is only achieved by a sophisticated “dual-method” backup and recovery system.

Windows 7 Backup and Restore

Here’s a good article by Microsoft on Windows Backup and Restore.   This is specific to Windows 7 and it’s features  with Windows Backup Restore capabilities.   Check it out.  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/backup-and-restore

Backup and Restore—improved for Windows 7—creates safety copies of your most important personal files, so you’re always prepared for the worst.

Let Windows choose what to back up, or pick individual folders, libraries, and drives yourself. Windows can back up files on whatever schedule you choose—just set it and forget it.

You can back up to another drive or a DVD. And if you’re using the Professional or Ultimate editions of Windows 7, you’ll also have the option of backing up your files to a network.

To back up your files

  1. Open Backup and Restore by clicking the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Backup and Restore.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • If you’ve never used Windows Backup before, click Set up backup, and then follow the steps in the wizard. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
    • If you’ve created a backup before, you can wait for your regularly scheduled backup to occur, or you can manually create a new backup by clicking Back up now. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Notes

  • We recommend that you don’t back up your files to the same hard disk that Windows is installed on.
  • Always store media used for backups (external hard disks, DVDs, or CDs) in a secure place to prevent unauthorized people from having access to your files—we recommend a fireproof location separate from your computer. You might also consider encrypting the data on your backup.

Cognoscape voted “Favorite IT Company” in the DFW/Addison Area!

Just this month Cognoscape, local DFW IT Outsource and Service Provider, was awarded “Favorite IT Company” by ADDISON- The Magazine of the North Dallas Corridor’s 3rd Annual Readers’ Choice Award.   An awards ceremony was held Tuesday, July 12, at Buttons, Restaurant in Addison, Texas. Nominations for the awards were gathered this Spring and were published in the Summer 2011 issue of ADDISON- The Magazine of the North Dallas Corridor. Readers from all over the metroplex cast their votes for their favorite in each of the several categories, ranging from Business to Arts and Entertainment.

The entire voting and results process was reviewed and approved by a local accounting firm.  Readers from around the Addison and Dallas area chose Cognoscape, as their IT company of choice. During the awards ceremony, Cognoscape received this plaque (pictured left), naming Cognoscape as the “Favorite IT Company” in the North Dallas Corridor.

A little about Cognoscape.

A growing Managed Services and Technology Solutions company, now voted as “Favorite IT Company” by ADDISON- The Magazine of the North Dallas Corridor’s readers, provides professional service companies with a unique service that focuses on business continuity, data backup and recovery, hosted email and applications and leveraging technology to improve small and medium businesses. This proactive approach allows Cognoscape’s clients to focus on their business, not worrying about technology or network issues. Other services include vendor management, complete turnkey hardware, software and networked systems and a specialized technology planning approach matching the growth plans, budget and acceptance of newer computing devices and models.

If you are looking for fast and reliable IT service from an IT company that is highly favored by people across the Dallas/Addison, TX  area and focuses on improving your business through leveraging technology, call 214-377-4884  today or sign up for a free network health check.

Cognoscape’s Michael St. Martin on KRLD last week “The Educated Investor”

Michael St. Martin, Cognoscape’s COO visited with Todd Volkman on Todd’s KRLD 1080AM radio show “The Educated Investor” last week to discuss how small and medium business owners and executives can leverage technology to increase revenues, productivity and cost savings. Listen “I had a blast speaking with Todd and hopefully explaining how to wade through the quickly changing and sometimes complex landscape of today’s technology” says Michael.   Topics covered include technology planning, back up and disaster recovery, hosted email, cloud computing, free or low cost web apps, and other nuggets of info for you.   Happy listening!

Information Security and your Business

A recent study released by Symantec Corporation reveals that many small and mid-sized organizations are recognizing the importance of information security. On average, SMBs are now spending approximately $51,000 per year to protect their company information. This is a substantial increase from last year when one-third of SMBs didn’t even have antivirus protection in place. SMBs risk cyber attacks and loss of confidential data and devices.  In today’s hyper-wired world that could mean the difference between success and having to shut down.

Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the National Council of Better Business Bureaus states, “The average cost of fraud for self-employed and small-business owners is about $4,627.” But your bottom line isn’t the only thing at risk. By failing to protect your customer data, you could put them in danger of credit card fraud and identity theft. Below we’ll cover some simple safeguards your company can put into place to prevent information theft:

1. Employee awareness – Employees are the gateway to your company’s information. Create and implement Internet security guidelines. Then, educate your employees and make sure they are following them. This can be as simple as requiring periodic password changes to updating your employees on the latest threats and how they can prevent them.

2. Protect important business information – Use data encryption so prying eyes can’t intrude. Maintain wireless security. Limit employee access to important information such as: credit card numbers, customer information or employee records. Important data in the wrong hands could become detrimental.

3. Create a Backup and Recovery Plan – You can’t predict the future but you can be prepared for it. A virus could spread through your system or a flood could ruin your equipment. Make sure you back up your data to an external source as frequently as possible in case the unexpected occurs.

Information Security is crucial to all businesses. In recent news, the Federal Trade Commission charged social media site, Twitter, for failing to adequately safeguard user information. Their failure to protect user accounts led to account attacks on both President-Elect Barack Obama and CNN host Rick Sanchez.  Twitter has not only suffered monetary losses, but has also lost trust and respect of some of their users.

Invest in protecting your company’s data now so you don’t have to deal with a disaster later.

“When a company promises consumers that their personal information is secure, it must live up to that promise.  Likewise, a company that allows consumers to designate their information as private must use reasonable security to uphold such designations.” – David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Cognoscape Secures Law Firm Data from Loss, Virus and Potential Disaster

Cognoscape Secures Law Firm Data from Loss, Virus and Potential Disaster

Dallas, TX (PRWEB) April 28, 2010 — In a city that’s famous for being considered the lower section of “Tornado Alley” it’s comforting to know that one of your most important business assets (data) is secure and recoverable. With uncomfortable memories of the recent 10 year anniversary of a tornado that ripped through the west side of the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex in 2000, the threat of a disaster that could potentially put an entire business at risk is quite real. Thirty three businesses were damaged or destroyed in that disaster.

Ft. Worth Tornado

Cognoscape, a Dallas based Computer Services start up has secured a local law firm’s data through their sophisticated TotalCare Data Back Up and Disaster Recovery solution. With both on-site and off-site data backup and recovery, *GoransonBain, one of Dallas’s premier family law firms, is now protected from data loss, hard drive failure and major disaster. “Backing up data in and of itself is certainly not a complicated issue” states CTO of Cognoscape – Charles Tholen, “but a sophisticated system allowing for a complete and quick recovery is paramount to maintaining business continuity and keeping a business up and running.”

  • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. 50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same time period filed for bankruptcy immediately. (National Archives & Records Administration in Washington)
  • 20% of small to medium businesses will suffer a major disaster causing loss of critical data every 5 years. (Source: Richmond House Group)
  • 30% of all businesses that have a major fire go out of business within a year. 70% fail within five years. (Home Office Computing Magazine)
  • This year, 40% of small to medium businesses that manage their own network and use the Internet for more than e-mail will have their network accessed by a hacker, and more than 50% won’t even know they were attacked. (Source: Gartner Group)

“The sad part is that most small and medium businesses think they are covered for Backup and Recovery but don’t have sufficient systems and/or don’t test those systems on a regular basis to know if they even work properly or not. Add to the mix, little or no security for the network itself against virus or malicious attacks and this compounds the problem.” says Michael St. Martin, Cognoscape’s COO. In addition to Data Backup and Disaster Recovery, Cognoscape has also improved the overall use of technology at GoransonBain with the latest in servers, desktops, laptops, software and applications which has streamlined the law firm’s business process and increased productivity. Thomas Goranson, attorney and managing partner at GoransonBain states that “not only do we feel better about our data security but the use of newer technology allows our lawyers to focus more on our business and our clients.”

With a number of technology solutions, all carefully chosen to ensure business continuity, Cognoscape is uniquely positioned to make a name for itself in the growing Managed Services market. “It’s been quite a ride so far, and I look forward to being able to continue to deliver to our clients the ability to make them even better at what they already do well”, says St. Martin.

For a free Backup & Disaster Recovery evaluation contact Cognoscape at 214.377.4884.

About Cognoscape – A growing Managed Services and Technology Solutions company that focuses on Business Continuity and delivering Enterprise Class Technology Solutions to Small and Medium Business. Using the latest Cloud Computing technologies such as redundant or fail over server capability, hosted Microsoft Exchange, sophisticated network monitoring & management and government grade security we allow you to focus on your business while utilizing technology as a competitive advantage.

3 Points of Data Recovery

Doing data backup is easy.  Considering the needs for data recovery is where many go wrong.  There are 3 points of data recovery that must be considered when putting together a proper Backup and Disaster Recovery plan.

1. Recovery of a File – Very simple and straight forward, you must be able to recover data files.  Can you recover deleted files from every location people save files?  Most files reside on the server or in a document management system.  Are people saving these documents on their workstations while they edit them?  What happens if Microsoft Word crashes?  I am sure that the file server is backed up, but is it backed up often enough?  Daily backups taken over night are typically not sufficient in most modern networks.

2. Recovery of a Server – Many business owners take comfort in that fact their server is being backed up without ever considering what recovering the server really means.  How long will it take to get a replacement server?  Will the same type of server be available? How do people work while waiting for the hardware?  Once you have the replacement server, how long will it take to restore it to service?  With many backup solutions, restoring requires the server OS and applications to be reinstalled before the data is restored.  It adds another level of complexity (and time) when recovering to dissimilar computer hardware.

3. Recovery of a Site– Unfortunately, disasters do happen.  Here in Texas the media has been marking the ten year anniversary of the tornado that ripped through downtown Fort Worth destroying buildings and ravaging businesses.  We have also been seeing all the coverage of earthquakes.  And let’s not forget about fires.  A recent study discovered that, of companies experiencing a “major loss” of computer records, 43 percent never reopened, 51 percent closed within two years of the loss, and a mere 6 percent survived over the long-term.  Having a plan and being able to recover quickly can greatly improve the chances of the business surviving.

A Complete Solution that addresses all of these points –
A good backup system should allow for quick and flexible restores that allows for recovery of files, folders, partitions, mailboxes/messages, databases/tables using a quick and intuitive process.  A 15-minute incremental based backup allows restores to be done from any point in time, allowing for multiple versions of files, folders, messages/mailboxes, database/tables to be restored.

If any of your servers fail, a good data backup solution will include virtualization technology embedded in the Network Attached Storage (NAS) that allows customer servers and applications to be restored and rebooted in less than 30 minutes in most cases.  As you may sometimes wait several days in order to receive replacement servers from vendors, your NAS can have your business up and running.  The NAS multitasks so that, even while functioning as a virtual server, it can continue to back up data from other devices plugged into the NAS.  This technology thus allows you to remain in business without any significant loss of data backup, server functionality, or application downtime.  In case of a complete server failure the solution should support a bare metal restore to new hardware which has a different configuration, hardware and drivers as compared to the failed server.

Transmitting data to a remote site is another key component of a worthy Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan. It guarantees that, in case of physical damage to the client’s network or NAS, or even regional disaster, the data is safe. Encryption is required in transmitting data between the NAS and the remote sites, because it greatly reduces the risk of data loss incidents that plague magnetic tape and prevents man-in-the-middle attacks during transmission.  Of course a key consideration of off-site backup is the amount of time it could take to restore data over the Internet.   Solutions that offer both transmission as well as emergency delivery of a new device with the most recent image are doubly effective.

In summary, the most important aspects of Backup and Disaster Recovery are to first, have a specific plan, second have a well thought out and comprehensive plan that matches the requirements of your business and lastly, to consistently manage and test your BDR solution.   In an age of document management, EMR, paperless office, HIPAA, HITECH, Sarbanes Oxley, eDiscovery, etc., a reliable Backup and Disaster Recovery solution are paramount to the longevity of your business.

Data Backup and Recovery: 7 Questions to Answer

The statistics are gloomy: 50 percent of companies that loose their data for 10 days or more file for bankruptcy within that same time period.

Ninety-three percent file for bankruptcy within one year.

Now that I’ve got your attention, now’s the time to start preparing for disaster, before you become another statistic! The first step is

1. Who will be responsible for the plan and who will perform the actual recovery of the data? The time for pointing fingers is not when disaster strikes. The person who creates the plan and the person who performs the actual recovery may be the same—or not. Determine who’s responsible for what early in the plan to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

2. How important is your data? Data varies in importance, helping you determine how and when it should be backed up. For instance, critical data, like a customer database, will likely require a plan that’s more elaborate, with more frequent and redundant backup sets that go back several backup periods. Less important information, such as daily user files, may simply need routine backups so you can recover the information when needed. Sift through your data and identify your most important and least important information.

3. What kind of information does your data contain? Data can contain everything from mundane, everyday information to highly sensitive and mission-critical information. Additionally, information that’s not very important to you might be important to someone else. Identifying the type of information your data contains will help you determine how secure your backup system needs to be, as well as when and how frequently your data should be backed up.

4. How frequently does your data change? The answer to this question determines how frequently you should back up your data. Information that changes daily should be backed up daily. Information that changes every few days should—at the very least—be backed up every few days. And so on.

5. When is the best time to schedule backups? Over the weekend? During the evening hours? In the morning? Backing up data generally takes less time when system use is low. Unfortunately, you may not be able to schedule backups to occur at these times. Carefully consider the best time and day to back up your information, keeping in mind that automated technology makes this easier while minimizing administrative time.

6. How quickly will you need to recover data? Apply the old adage here: time is money. Some businesses may function relatively well for a day or two without access to their systems and data stores. Others may crumble in a matter of hours. If you fall into the latter category and need to get access to critical systems immediately, create a plan that lets you do this. Prioritize which systems you need first, second and so on, and make sure your recovery solution delivers.

7. Should you store backed-up information off-site? The answer for most businesses: yes. This is especially important if you operate in an area prone to natural disasters such as tornadoes or hurricanes. In addition to storing your tapes or disks off-site, make sure you store copies of any software you need to re-establish operations, and that multiple people have the keys or access code for that location.

Avoid saying, “If only …”

No one anticipates a disaster. But we can plan for it. Today’s backup and recovery technology makes protecting your critical business information and systems easier and more affordable than ever. So stop making excuses. Start planning. Information is one of your business’ most important assets. Protect it.