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Data Loss Can Cause You To Shut Down

52Small and medium sized businesses today are relying more than ever on IT systems to efficiently run their business, support customers and optimize productivity. These systems house sensitive digital data ranging from employee and customer information, to internal emails, documents and financial records, sales orders and transaction histories. This is in addition to applications and programs critical to daily business functions and customer service.

While corporate-level data losses and insider theft are well publicized, many smaller businesses have also become casualties of data loss and theft. Following a significant data loss, it is estimated that a small-to-medium sized business can lose up to 25% in daily revenue by the end of the first week. Projected lost daily revenue increases to 40% one month into a major data loss.

According to The National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that have experienced data loss, coupled with prolonged downtime for ten or more days, have filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident while 50% wasted no time and filed for bankruptcy immediately. Finally, 43% of companies with no data recovery and business continuity plan actually go out of business following a major data loss.

Still, a survey conducted by Symantec SMB revealed that fewer than half of SMBs surveyed backup their data each week. Only 23% of those surveyed said they backup data every day and have a business continuity plan in place.

Businesses play on a much bigger playing field than they did two decades ago. Any disruptive technological event – even the smallest of incidents – can have an amplified impact on day-to-day business and profitability. Being proactive with data recovery solutions, and having emergency response procedures in place prior to a disruption or data disaster, is the only way to minimize downtime and soften the impact of such events. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

6 Steps to Better Data Backup Practices

  1. Think Quicker Recovery Time, Not Quicker Backup – While incremental backups are much faster than executing a full-backup, they also prolong recovery time. In the event of data loss, a full restore will require loading the most recent full backup and then each incremental backup tape. Having too many incremental backup tapes not only adds time to this restoration process, but it also increases the probability of not recovering all of your data. A tape could be lost, unintentionally skipped over, or contain corrupted data. Be sure to focus on optimizing the restore time to ensure faster data recovery. A quicker recovery time should be the main objective, not the need for a quicker backup process.

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  1. Maintain Sufficient Backup History – Within the blink of an eye, current data files can become corrupted and inaccessible. This will necessitate the loading of an earlier data backup that is clean of corruption. Many smaller companies make the mistake of failing to keep a sufficient backup history.
  1. Be Sure to Backup Essential Data AND Applications – Some businesses don’t feel the need to backup all data, but be sure essential databases, documents and records are backed up frequently. Don’t overlook applications that are critical to day-to-day business operations either. Many companies fail to backup applications, only to realize when it’s too late that they don’t have access to the original installation disks when they’re trying to recover from data loss or an outage.
  1. Have Off-Site or Online Backup – Some businesses backup data simply by moving essential files to tapes or external hard drives that are then stored somewhere onsite. But if they’re kept onsite, what happens if a fire, flood or other natural disaster takes out not just your server but your backup tapes and drives? Onsite backups can also be susceptible to theft. Having secure off-site, or even online backup, is simply the smart thing to do to ensure quick recovery when trouble comes to town.
  1. Fix Broken Access Controls on Your File Server – Many businesses have folders with confidential data residing on a file server with overly permissive access controls. Why take the risk of having a disgruntled – even former – employee access and misuse this data when access can be limited to only those in the company who need it?
  1. Be Sure to Test Restores – It happens time and time again. Business owners think they have a data backup plan in place. Tapes are changed diligently each day and everything appears to be backed up and good to go. However, it turns out the backups haven’t been working for months, sometimes even years, right at the very moment they’re needed. Either the backups had become corrupt and useless, or large segments of data were not being backed up. This happens often. Don’t let it happen to you.

Avoid data loss before it happens. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

What You Can Learn From US Regulator’s Business Continuity Recommendations

U.S regulators have recommended that all fu40tures and securities firms review and update their current data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity solutions. Prompted by closures in the equities and options market in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Regulators including the SEC, FINRA, and the CFTC contacted firms to assess the impact Hurricane Sandy had on their operations The regulators asked each firm for specifics regarding any backup disaster recovery (BDR) and business continuity plan (BCP) they had in place prior to Hurricane Sandy. The responses they gathered were compiled to develop a list of best practices and lessons learned. The regulators have since gone on to suggest that all firms refer to these best practices and lessons as part of reviewing and improving upon their current BDR and BCP procedures. By doing this, the regulators hope that firms will be better prepared for similar events. Regulators feel that a comprehensive BDR and business continuity strategy will help firms improve responsiveness and minimize downtime. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have always stressed the importance of the BDR and BCP solutions they offer to small-to-medium-sized businesses. That said, it doesn’t hurt to see what government regulators recommend to those handling our money. We’ve summarized portions of the full report, addressing only the parts that we feel can easily be applied to SMBs. The full report can be read here at http://www.sec.gov/about/offices/ocie/jointobservations- bcps08072013.pdf.

Widespread Disruption Considerations

True business continuity plans go beyond technology. What is the probability of a widespread lack of telecommunications during a disaster? We’re talking no Internet and no cell phone coverage. Large-scale events can knock out power and limit our access to drinkable water and food supplies. Getting around may be complicated. Roadways might be inaccessible and fuel may be scarce. Part of being prepared for the unknown is to assess how any plausible scenario would impact day-to-day operations and services. A critical component to business continuity planning is remote access. Every employee should have the ability to efficiently work from home if a disaster strikes or blocks access to the office. If there is no power or no Internet and phone, alternatives should be defined to carry out key operations.

Alternative Location Considerations

The implications of region-wide disruptions must be factored into the location choices for backed-up data centers. Keeping backups within close proximity may seem like a smart strategy to ensure they’re readily accessible, but this does you no good if it’s a region wide disruption. When it comes to supporting business critical activities at an alternative location, what will be the site’s staffing needs? How about office space, equipment, and available resources? Printed copies of the business continuity plan, contact lists, and other business documents and manuals should also be kept at the alternate site if electronic files can’t be accessed.

Vendor Relationships

Any critical vendor relationships should also have an adequate business continuity plan, as they may be affected by the same event as you. Vendors risk ratings should be considered based on the quality of their BDR and BCP strategies.

Telecommunications Services and Technology Considerations

The telecommunications infrastructure must be enhanced. Consider secondary phone lines, backup mobile phone services with different carriers, emergency Wi-Fi spots, and cloud technology.

Review and Testing

Annual full BCP tests should be conducted. If the business continuity plan changes often, more frequent testing is recommended. All personnel should be trained for their specific role in the plan.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

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!

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.