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8 Cold Hard Truths for SMBs Not Worried About Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

27 The foundation of any successful business continuity solution is the ability to retrieve data from any point in time from anywhere. When the topic of data recovery and business continuity comes up, you get the feeling that many decision makers at smaller businesses and organizations wish they could channel their inner six year old, simply cover their ears, and sing “La, la, la. I Can’t Hear You. I’m Not Listening.” Everybody things bad things only happen to other people. Just because we hear about a fatal car accident on the morning news, doesn’t mean we fixate on that news when we ourselves get into a car and drive to work. So no matter how many times the owner or CIO of a small to midsize business (SMB) hears of other small businesses being crippled by hurricanes, tornados, fires, or flooding, they aren’t necessarily overcome with fear to the point that they feel an urgency to take action. Sure, they may think about backup and data recovery solutions a little more that day, but not enough to initiate immediate change or reverse a lenient approach to their processes. If you fall into this category, here are eight cold hard truths to consider

  1. It isn’t natural disasters or catastrophic losses like fires that take down small businesses but something far more sinister – malware. Cyber attacks through malware have grown exponentially in the past four years. Malware is hitting everything from PCs to Macs to mobile devices and it’s inflicting damage.
  2. Over half of the small businesses in the U.S. have experienced disruptions in day-to-day business operations. 81% of these incidents have led to downtime that has lasted anywhere from one to three days.
  3. According to data compiled by the Hughes Marketing Group, 90% of companies employing less than 100 people spend fewer than eight hours a month on their business continuity plan.
  4. 80% of businesses that have experienced a major disaster are out of business within three years. Meanwhile, 40% of businesses impacted by critical IT failure cease operations within one year. 44% of businesses ravaged by a fire fail to ever reopen, and only 33% of those that do reopen survive any longer than three years.
  5. Disaster recovery solution providers estimate that 60% to 70% of all business disruptions originate internally – most likely due to hardware or software failure or human error.
  6. 93% of businesses unable to access their data center for ten or more days filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident.
  7. In the United States alone, there are over 140,000 hard drive crashes each week.
  8. 34% of SMBs never test their backup and recovery solutions – of those who do, over 75% found holes and failures in their strategies.

It’s critical that small businesses review their backup and disaster recovery processes and take business continuity seriously. Given the vulnerabilities associated with the cloud and workforce mobility, the risk of critical data loss today is quite serious and firms must be truly prepared for the unexpected.

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Common Causes of Downtime

Chart Zero In On Infrastructure Vulnerability to Data Center Downtime

Leading Causes of Downtime

  • Power Outages – 48%
  • Accidental Data Deletion – 31%
  • Employee Created – 29%
  • Virus/Malware – 25%
  • Application Failure – 20%

Power Related Outages – Vulnerabilities to a data center’s power still rank as one of the leading causes of unplanned network outages and can often be catastrophic. Particularly costly are UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) related failures (this includes batteries) and generator failures.

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To minimize the impact that power outages have on data center operations, and to prevent a potentially catastrophic unavailability of the data center, a dependable backup system is needed. This ensures the backup of critical data and applications is always in place in the event of equipment failure.

The integration of comprehensive infrastructure monitoring and management tools also minimizes the costs associated with identifying and repairing power system failures. Accidental Data Deletion and

Employee Created Downtime

Simple human error is a prevalent cause of downtime. Whether months of data is unintentionally lost in a backup error, a power cord is unplugged, a busy IT technician overlooks routine maintenance and alert monitoring, or there is an error in judgment during an emergency, to err is human and apparently quite frequent as well.

A study by the Gartner Group, an IT research and advisory firm, projected that through 2015, 80% of downtime will be due to people and process issues.

In the fall of 2010, foursquare – a widely used mobile check-in app – had a highly publicized outage of eleven hours, followed by another shorter service disruption the next day. All three million users of the app were affected and it was a chain of human mistakes that led to both outages. IT techs noticed that a server was storing too much data, but as the support team tried to resolve the issue, all the servers went down.

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Regardless of proper training, or the quality of IT technician hires, human mistakes will likely always lead to instances of a downed data center or network, especially considering the expected learning curve of adapting to new technologies. Ensuring proper communication amongst team members and adequate training at all levels is critical. Of course, it goes without saying that having a comprehensive backup strategy is also a necessity to counteract downtime and ensure business continuity regardless of who is having a bad day.

 

Virus/Malware/Hacks – SMBs are often guilty of thinking they are immune to hackers, viruses and malware. According to a National Cyber Alliance and Symantec survey, 77% of SMBs don’t believe they’re at risk for cybercrime while 83% admit to having no formal measures in place to counter these threats. This isn’t merely a threat to your data; it puts your bank account and the sensitive data of your customers at risk.

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Passwords should be regularly changed every few months. They should also be strong. This means no more passwords like “password” or “1234567.” Employees must be educated on security and precautionary measures. And there is no excuse for not having data backed up in this era of cloud computing and virtualization – where the entire contents of physical server – including the operating system, applications, patches and all data – can easily and cost-effectively be grouped into one software bundle or virtual server.

 

Application Failure – Many applications or their components contribute to recurring downtime. While virtualization offers many multi-faceted advantages it has also further exacerbated overlapping applications in the infrastructure. One small application component failure is now likely to impact many applications.

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It is critical that all components are profiled and there is a general understanding as to what each application does – the hardware resources used by the application and the software it integrates with. Identifying an owner will allow for better monitoring and recognition of failure points.

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SMBs can benefit from a little help when it comes to properly implementing and leveraging this new technology to strengthen their disaster recovery efforts. Access to a 24/7 NOC (Network Operations Center) team offering remote monitoring and management solutions, along with a 24/7 help desk, can help SMBs improve backup, monitoring and troubleshooting processes for maximum uptime and business continuity.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

 

Five Ways SMBs Can Minimize Data Loss

  1. Enforce Data Security – This is more or less the managing of the “human factor.” CIOs and those in SMB management roles must communicate data protection policies to staff and ensure their implementation. Rules must be set, particularly with personal devices, to enforce security policies. It can be as simple as sending reminders to not open email attachments from unknown sources, requiring passwords be reset every few months or the banning of specific file sharing or social networking sites. In May of 2012, security concerns led to over 400,000 IBM employees being banned from using the cloud storage service Dropbox and Siri – the iPhone personal assistant. While far from an SMB, if IBM can go that far and make such a demand to so many employees, an insurance agent can certainly remind his or her marketing representative to not play Farmville on Facebook if they’re using a laptop containing company and customer/client data.
  2. Stress the consequences – both personal and business – of not properly protecting confidential data. Encourage employees to make passwords difficult to crack. Patch holes in the infrastructure’s walls by identifying the most critical data. Perhaps a trusted IT advisor can help implement processes to better protect that data’s security perimeters.
  3. Mobile Device Management – Mobile Device Management grants SMBs a semblance of control over the mobile devices used within the company. Devices tapping into company system are identified and remotely monitored and managed 24/7. More importantly, they are proactively secured via specified password policies, encryption settings, and automated compliance actions. Lost or stolen devices can be located and either locked or stripped of all SMB-related data.
  4. Snapshots – Fully backing up large amounts of data can be a lengthy process. The data being backed up is also vulnerable to file corruption from read errors. This means sizeable chunks of data may not be stored in the backup and be unavailable in the event of a full restore. This can be avoided by backing up critical data as snapshots, which are read-only copies of data frozen to a specific point in time and stored using minimal disk space. These virtual snapshots are immediately available for restores in the event of data loss.
  5. Cloud Replication and Disaster Recovery Services – The cloud provides SMBs who consider data backup to be too costly, time consuming and complex with a cost-effective, automated off-site data replication process that provides continuous availability to business-critical data and applications. Cloud replication can often get systems back online in under an hour following a data loss.

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Decreasing Business Costs and Risks of Costly Data Loss

4 We live in a 24/7 global economy that is more dependent than ever on technology. Even the technology of small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) houses sensitive digital data – employee and customer information, internal emails, documents and financial records, sales orders and transaction histories. Not to mention applications and programs critical to daily business function and services. Employees at SMBs require continuous access to the critical business data needed to meet the demands of the customers or clients they service. They even want this access while they’re at home or on the go running errands. To satisfy this demand, many companies and organizations now allow employees to BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) and “do business” using their personal laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The web, Wi-Fi networks and mobile devices with robust memory and battery life have made this constant access to a SMBs back office infrastructure a reality. Regrettably this flexibility and freedom is accompanied by an ominous risk of data loss.

Just a single data loss or breach can be costly to SMBs. Data losses and leaks come with lingering continuous costs that many SMBs cannot easily shake or overcome. Revenue is lost if employee productivity and customer accessibility/service are stalled by data loss. The expenses associated with internal research and investigation, system repair and maintenance, and data security protection are another heavy price SMBs must pay. If cybercrime is involved, affected customers must be notified, the potential exists for litigation, and many customers will likely never return due to mistrust.

While corporate-level data losses are well publicized, many SMBs mistakenly believe their data isn’t at risk. This mistake can prove to be a costly one.

3 Why C-Suite Management at SMBs Can No Longer Ignore Data Loss

  • Following a significant data loss, it is estimated that SMBs can lose up to 25% in daily revenue by the end of the first week.
  • According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that have experienced data loss, and prolonged downtime for ten or more days have filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident. 50% wasted no time and filed for bankruptcy immediately. 43% of companies with no data recovery and business continuity plan actually go out of business following a major data loss. How quickly can your business be restored if critical data is lost? When was the last time backup processes were tested to ensure all data is recoverable and business operations are quickly restored?
  • 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.
  • The percentage of cybercriminal attacks targeting businesses with fewer than 250 employees doubled in 2012. The vulnerabilities of naïve small business owners have been noted, and hackers have now placed the proverbial bull’s-eye on these perceived weak links.

If sensitive customer data is leaked, SMBs may face overwhelming financial liabilities, which could include reimbursing affected customers and legal fees.

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Businesses today are playing on a much bigger playing field than they were two decades ago. Any SMB that trusts the security and backup of critical business data with a limited and overburdened in-house IT team, or forsakes internal IT support altogether for emergency on-call help when things go bad (Break/Fix Mentality), is playing with fire and begging to be burned.

Any disruptive or invasive 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 get critical data restored immediately to the data center, minimize downtime, protect customer and client data and soften the impact of such events.

Don’t let this happen to you. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

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.