Data loss has been a hot issue lately, especially after the hacking of iCloud and the resulting leak of celebrity photos, as well as the attack on Sony Pictures, releasing massive amounts of confidential and personal employee data.
Whether you’re a large multinational corporation or an independent technology company, your information is important and should be kept as safe as possible.
Here are a few basic tips on how to make sure your data is secure and remains that way.
Backup Your Data
By now, backing up your data should be common sense. Too many things can go wrong not to have your data backed up in case of hardware failure or an untimely system crash.
But here’s an additional recommendation – DO NOT back your data up on the same drive as your operating system.
Whether it’s a result of malfunctioning software or a vicious malware attack, a majority of computer issues affect the operating system.
Often, you’ll need to reinstall certain software or reformat the infected drive in order to remove a virus, leaving most if not all of your data unsalvageable.
Which brings us to the next tip…
Install An Anti-Virus Program
Though backing up your data is extremely important in the event that your system is infected by a virus, preventing the virus from the start can save a great deal of trouble in the form of downtime as well as file loss and data corruption.
An effective anti-virus program will help prevent, detect, and remove software viruses (as well as other malware such as trojans, worms, bots, etc.) keeping your valuable data as secure as possible.
Have A Disaster Recovery Plan
All it takes is one major security breach or virus attack to force unnecessary downtime, vital data loss, while risking the safety and reputation of your business.
Even with sufficient data backup and up-to-date antivirus software, your documents and important information can still be lost due to human error and natural disasters. Though these issues cannot always be prevented, they can certainly be minimized with a proper disaster recovery plan.
So if you have the opportunity to safeguard the future of your business, shouldn’t you take it?
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Taking time and money to back up your company data is extremely burdensome, but make no mistake – having a disaster recovery plan is absolutely necessary. Many companies have perished after experiencing a devastating IT catastrophe. Here are 5 scenarios that could leave your businesses in pieces if you haven’t invested in disaster recovery.
Can Your Company Survive Disaster?
Could your company goes weeks without revenue? Most business owners would say no! Regardless of what type of disaster may come your way, most will leave you scrambling to pick up the pieces if you haven’t prepared. It can only take a few weeks of time before a company has lost so much income that they close up shop.
Mother nature is unpredictable and unforgiving. Hurricanes, fires and water damage are all examples of how natural disasters can wipe out your company. When this type of disaster occurs it can be devastating, so it is imperative that you have your important data backed up and stored in a safe place.
It’s no secret that there are malicious attackers on the internet. What would happen if your office became the target of someone looking to obtain sensitive personal information for you or your clients. Once a company experiences a security breach, it can be a problem for the owner, clients and employees.
Maintain Your Good Reputation With Clients and Staff
Hardware and software are never fool proof, regardless of the quality. Even the best brands become outdated and can break without warning. Often times companies will gain a false sense of security, thinking that if they invest in a good IT infrastructure they won’t have to worry about disaster recovery.
Regardless of what may come your way, it is important to maintain your reputation to your customers. When a company experiences an IT crisis it can be detrimental to the way that customers view the way you do business. When you appear unprepared, customers look for someone else to take care of their needs.
Are you prepared for the worst case scenario? Having a plan doesn’t mean much if you don’t put it in to motion. Any one of these disasters could put you out of business if you haven’t taken the time to carefully weigh the consequences. For companies who have invested in a disaster recovery plan, getting up and running won’t be a problem.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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Business continuity and disaster recovery strategies tend to be on the to-do lists of many SMBs, but they are often delayed as more urgent business issues emerge. U.S. businesses lose roughly $1.7 billion in profit each year from network outages according to the same 2011 CDW business continuity survey referenced earlier. Obviously, it isn’t smart business for an SMB to let business continuity and disaster recovery planning become an afterthought.
To structure a solid business continuity plan, SMBs must be prepared for all possible disruptions. It is important to note that business continuity goes beyond being prepared for natural or man-made disasters. We are now so technologically dependent that BC/DR plans must be in place to counter any disruption – big or small – that threatens business and profitability. Internal technical or infrastructure failures or cyber-attacks are obvious examples. Small internal “single-points-of-failure” can bring down an entire operation.
Step 2 – Impact Analysis and Risk Assessment
Constant availability is critical to success. In order to minimize downtime, it’s important to determine what technology is behind each phase of your business operations. Knowing the technology infrastructure of your business allows for a comprehensive impact analysis and a better grasp of the impact on business operations when specific technology fails or becomes unavailable – even for a short period of time.
Determining what could unexpectedly bring down each piece of that infrastructure is risk assessment. Risks come in the form of either internal or outside threats. Internal threats can be anything from an application failure, disk crash, and server malfunction to human error or a bitter employee. External threats can vary depending on location – natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, floods, and fires, as well as man-made events like power outages, acts of terror, and accidents can knock out services. Additionally, our dependency on technology leaves firms susceptible to cyber-attacks like malware, computer viruses, phishing schemes, and the theft of personal mobile devices used for work purposes.
While major disasters do occur, and shouldn’t be overlooked, it is the smaller everyday disruptions like power outages, server crashes, email issues, equipment failure, and lost or corrupted data that pose the bigger risk to business.
Doomsday prepping may be the rage these days, but a sound BC/DR plan typically begins by focusing on addressing the day-in and day-out disruptions first. Documenting, reviewing, communicating, and testing the effectiveness of smaller response scenarios will better prepare businesses for potential disasters and longer-term disruptions.
Step 3 – Look to Recent Tech Trends That Simplify Planning
Recent technology developments like server and desktop virtualization, cloud computing, and mobile devices are beneficial to SMBs looking for BC/DR solutions.
Virtualization – BC/DR preparedness may be the most compelling reason to consider virtualization. Virtualization allows businesses to condense data and applications onto fewer servers – taking up less space and consuming less power. Virtualization allows small-to-medium sized businesses the benefit of high availability (HA) without the added expense of building a backup data center. Operations can be restored faster as the entire system can be brought back in a single virtual container.
Cloud Computing – More firms are moving to the cloud for backup services. The cloud has enabled small and medium sized businesses to backup operations away from their primary location and enhance their business continuity process at a reduced cost.
Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) packages often come with built in business continuity solutions that can automate data backup processes onsite or off-site – spreading out risks and minimizing the impact of a disaster. Data, servers, software, and tools can be stored in the cloud and remain safe if a business is hit by a computer virus or disaster. The cloud also allows remote workers to access an organization’s communication and collaboration tools, further allowing for “business as usual” in the event of a serious disruption.
Although it is understandable that ownership and upper management at small to medium sized businesses are hesitant to spend money, BC/DR planning is a lot like insurance. It is human nature to think that bad things won’t happen to you, but the investment pays off the when you’re hit by an extreme event or emergency.
New technology trends and the back-up-as- a-service, remote backup, and online backup services provided by MSPs have given SMBs the ability to safeguard their business operations at a reasonable cost. Money and resources can no longer be an excuse for a lack of solid BC/DR solutions. There is way too much at risk. Plan now and CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.
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As a small business owner, you owe it to yourself, your employees, stakeholders, and any customer you serve to honestly answer this one question: Is your business resilient enough to withstand short or long-term interruptions to its operations?
The answer should be immediate. If you have to pause or think for one second before responding, the answer is no. Each day of business brings with it unforeseen risk. Whether it’s catastrophic weather conditions, cyber- security threats, or the vulnerabilities of the technology we’re dependent on to perform daily work functions, there must be both a business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plan in place. There must also be complete confidence in the effectiveness of the BC/DR strategies that are implemented.
The truth of the matter is most small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) aren’t doing nearly enough when it comes to continuity and disaster planning. It’s inconceivable that in this era where smaller businesses store more sensitive data than ever before, and the risk of losing this data is so great, that a 2011 Systematic survey revealed that up to 57% of small businesses still have no business continuity or disaster recovery plan in place.
A few years ago, a study conducted by Forrester Research concluded that 66% of businesses with fewer than one hundred employees admitted to having no tested response to not just tech issues like a downed server or network but disasters, emergencies, and power outages.
Let’s break down some of the potential costs of short and long-term business interruptions, why far too many SMBs don’t have a solid business continuity/recovery plan in place, and the necessary steps SMBs can take to get prepared.
A Competent BC/DR Strategy Is a Must
Often misconceived as a problem for the “big guys,” business continuity is a concern for businesses and organizations of all sizes – whether there are 5 or 5,000 employees. The costs of having no solutions in place are too high for many smaller companies to rebound from.
Several hours of unplanned downtime can result in thousands of dollars lost each hour. That’s the kind disruption a small business may face from a shorter-duration tech issue or power outage. Imagine the consequences of longer lasting outages, where a business may be down for days or weeks, as seen in natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, or acts of terror like the 2001 World Trade Center attack.
Beyond the immediate tangible costs of outages like lost productivity and revenues, there is also an intangible domino effect that may be harder to quantify. The repercussions can greatly exacerbate the total losses over time, for instance:
Customers/Clients Jumping to a Competitor: The web hosting company1&1 Internet, Inc. reported that 72% ofweb users admit to abandoning a businessfor a competitor if they can’t instantlyaccess a company website or encounternumerous error messages, problemsplacing an order, or issues accessing onlinefeatures/support. People want immediategratification today and will take theirdollars elsewhere if they don’t get it.Even more alarming is the fact that 58%are likely to never return, which meansthe loss of long-term revenue streams.Perhaps they may be more forgiving inthe event of a crisis like a natural disasterbut there will still be those who go to acompetitor and never come back.
Word-of-Mouth/Negative Brand Reputation: Thanks to the power of socialmedia, those frustrated by instances ofdowntime will take to Facebook or Twitterto quickly spread their vitriol. Brandbuilding and reputation managementare critical to small businesses. Anynegative attention and publicity broughton by downtime can have long lasting consequences.
Disgruntled Employees: In small companies or organizations, the burden of troubleshooting recurring tech issues or getting a system back online will typically fall upon the shoulders of an already busy, possibly overworked, employee. This multi-tasking employee will have to sacrifice bigger priorities to constantly play damage control. He or she will sometimes have to do this outside of normal work hours and may be pulled away from projects that generate revenue. If they aren’t happy about this, they may seek employment elsewhere. Both high turnover and the inability to use an employee’s knowledge and skill set for revenue generating tasks are costly to small-to-medium sized businesses.
Too Many SMBs Aren’t Prioritizing BC/DR Plans
Businesses are fueled by information. They are defined by their ability to efficiently and safely handle the data and vital information they generate or process on a daily basis. It is this data that keeps their day-to-day business functioning, ensuring optimal customer service and interaction. While protecting data is a priority for large enterprises, small-to-midsize business owners have the same responsibility but are challenged by limited budgets. For a start-up, the entire focus must be customer-facing, with few resources directed at anything not driving short-term revenues.
This means far too many SMBs today are failing to employ some very basic safeguards to ensure BC/DR.
A September 2011 CDW Business Continuity Straw Poll suggested that 82% of U.S. service disruptions could be reduced or altogether eliminated by even the most basic BC/DR plan. So why aren’t more SMBs taking these precautions?
Failure to Recognize a Problem: Most SMBs don’t think about business continuity or disaster recovery until it’s too late and they’re scrambling to recover after being taken down. It’s ironic since so much focus goes into keeping a business sustainable by growing sales, or outdoing the competition, yet a vital part of “staying in business” is overlooked when it comes to their supporting technology.
Intimidating and Complex Planning Tools: SMBs looking to streamline costsand simplify procedures will sometimeswrite off BC/DR practices as unnecessary.Those who do recognize the importanceof preparedness are often overwhelmedby the complex technical jargon thataccompanies business continuity planningand don’t know where to begin when theyhear terms like “business impact analysis”and “risk assessments.”
They Feel as if They Can’t Afford It and They’re On Their Own: Decision-makers may know they’re living on theedge without a tested strategy, however,they don’t realize that new technologytrends, and the availability of productslike managed service providers (MSPs),can reduce costs and save on resources.MSPs can leverage their knowledge of anSMB’s specific needs with the numerouscloud and hosted backup and recoverytools currently available today.
Create a plan. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
93% of businesses unable to access their data center for ten or more days filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident.
In the United States alone, there are over 140,000 hard drive crashes each week.
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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Many SMBs don’t realize it, but the path to some grand cybercrime score of a lifetime may go right through their backdoor. SMBs are commonly vendors, suppliers, or service providers who work with much larger enterprises. Unfortunately, they may be unaware that this makes them a prime target for hackers. Worse yet, this may be costing them new business.
Larger companies likely have their security game in check, making it difficult for hackers to crack their data. They have both the financial resources and staffing power to stay on top of security practices. But smaller firms continue to lag when it comes to security. In many cases, the gateway to accessing a large company’s info and data is through the smaller company working with them. Exposed vulnerabilities in security can lead cybercriminals right to the larger corporation they’ve been after.
Cybercriminals Target Companies with 250 or Fewer Employees
In 2012, Symantec research confirmed that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting smaller businesses with 250 or fewer employees. Attacks aimed at this demographic practically doubled from the previous year. This news has made larger enterprises particularly careful about whom they do business with. This means that any SMB targeting high-end B2B clientele, or those seeking partnerships with large public or government entities, must be prepared to accurately answer questions pertaining to security. This requires an honest assessment of the processes taken to limit security risks.
View Security Measures as Investments
CIOs must start viewing any extra investment to enhance security as a competitive differentiator in attracting new business. Adopting the kind of security measures that large enterprises seek from third-party partners they agree to work with will inevitably pay off. The payoff will come by way of new revenue-generating business contracts that will likely surpass whatever was spent to improve security.
Would-be business partners have likely already asked for specifics about protecting the integrity of their data. Some larger entities require that SMBs complete a questionnaire addressing their security concerns. This kind of documentation can be legally binding so it’s important that answers aren’t fudged just to land new business. If you can’t answer “yes” to any question about security, find out what it takes to address that particular security concern.
Where a Managed Service Provider Comes In
Anyone who isn’t yet working with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) should consider it. First, a manual network and security assessment offers a third-party perspective that will uncover any potential business-killing security risks. A good MSP will produce a branded risk report to help you gain the confidence of prospects to win new business.
A MSP can properly manage key elements of a small company’s security plan. This includes administrative controls like documentation, security awareness training, and audits as well as technical controls like antivirus software, firewalls, patches, and intrusion prevention. Good management alone can eliminate most security vulnerabilities and improve security.
Stay secure and CLICK HERE for a free network assessment. Managed IT could prevent a security breach.
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A successful SMB must align its technology and business initiatives. Constant employee productivity must be maintained to meet the needs and expectations of customers. To successfully do this, an honest assessment of risk is necessary. Regrettably, many SMB owners or management teams remain in state of denial that mismanaged technology has any serious consequences on their business. Meanwhile, it is costing them every day!
According to Symantec SMB, 50% of SMBs admit to having no backup and disaster recovery plan in place. Forty-one percent of those surveyed confessed that they had never even given much thought to implementing a disaster recovery or business continuity plan.
Every day SMBs are gambling with the lifeline of their business. Some may know they’re playing with fire but budget limitations may prevent SMBs from hiring adequate internal IT support. Often, the IT support that is on payroll is overburdened and stuck in a constant reactive mode where they spend their days resolving issues that are already hindering productivity and service. They can never break this cycle to get to a point where they’re actually proactively approaching things.
This same “break/fix” mentality is also the reason why many SMBs aren’t hiring in-house IT support. They instead phone in expensive “as needed” emergency IT support when issues arise. There are so many smaller businesses and organizations needlessly bleeding money every day by subjecting themselves to the high hourly rates, service charges, trip fees and wait times of on-call IT support.
This is the status quo. Management cuts corners because they either feel they have no choice given today’s economy or they’re completely ignorant to the daily revenue being lost by mismanaged business technology. Some know this will prove to be a costly mistake but they have no real vision to what it is already costing them every day.
Many SMBs don’t have a healthy fear of technology failure. Nor do they spend much time thinking about the true return on their IT investment. SMBs must ask themselves a few questions to determine if their business can really afford the “status quo.”
How often is employee productivity and customer accessibility or service stalled each day from a downed network or system? ƒ How much downtime can your business truly afford and what kind of backup or recovery solutions are in effect when systems are unavailable?
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?
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 reinstalled or updated? Are account details, licensing agreements, and security settings somewhere on record?
Are your systems truly protected from theft, hackers, and viruses? Are passwords to sensitive data changed whenever employees leave the company or organization?
When was the last time you tested backup processes to ensure they are working properly? How quick were you back up?
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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.
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Phone: (214) 377-4884 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: 3939 Belt Line Road, #505, Addison, TX 75001