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The quick guide to business continuity

There are some things in business you can predict with accuracy, but there’s a lot that’s anything but predictable. For example, you have no way of knowing when a natural disaster, software misfire or simple power outage will strike.

It’s not a comfortable feeling, thinking that your company’s fate is out of your control.

The good news is that you don’t have to be out of control, even when everything around you feels like chaos. Not if you have a plan. Specifically, a business continuity plan.

Read on to learn more about business continuity plans: what they are, why they’re so essential, and how to create one for your business.

What is a business continuity plan?

A business continuity plan is your plan for keeping your business productive, even when there are significant obstacles in your way. In other words, it’s a way of preparing for unforeseen circumstances (like natural disasters and cybersecurity breaches) that critically threaten your company’s efficiency and bottom line.

Before you wave off the idea of disaster striking, keep in mind that “disasters” can take many different forms:

  • As mentioned before, there are natural disasters, like earthquakes, fires, tornados, hurricanes, snowstorms and floods
  • You should also be prepared for hardware issues, like hardware failure
  • Then there are minor emergencies, like a power outage, inclement weather days and temporary loss of internet connectivity
  • And finally, a big one—cybersecurity-related issues, like ransomware

Their common element is simple. Any of these events can take your network offline and leave your staff without the tools you rely on day after day.

When that happens, whether it’s for a few hours or a few weeks, what will you do? How will you stay in touch with your employees and customers? What critical processes will you need to keep online, no matter what, for the sake of the company’s stability? For that matter, what’s the first thing you would do in the wake of a true disaster?

The answers to those questions form the basis of your business continuity plan.

Why is business continuity so important?

Business continuity matters because you don’t have a bottomless bank account. When a disaster sidelines your business, you can only afford to be out of the game for so long before it will do you in.

We know. That sounds dramatic. And we’re not ones to use scare tactics at all, but the stakes really are that high. Without a business continuity plan, you’re risking your company’s entire future.

You can’t stop disasters from happening, you can prepare for the worst, which dramatically increases your chances of survival if something goes wrong.

MCA team

Building your own business continuity plan

The best advice we can give here is to seek the consultation of a business continuity expert. This is complex stuff. A thorough strategy really does warrant professional help.

However, anyone can begin thinking about risk and making plans for the future. Plus, we know a lot of small businesses simply don’t have the funds to hire a consultant. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know to create a basic business continuity plan.

Identify your assets

A lot of small business owners are tempted to start the process by thinking about everything that can go wrong. You might find yourself drawn specifically to thinking about how to recover from a fire or flood, for instance.

That’s generally only a good idea if you already know your business is facing an imminent risk. If, for example, there’s a hurricane bearing down on your data center.

Otherwise, it’s better to think of business continuity not in terms of possible risks, but in terms of what you might lose and how it would impact productivity.

What assets does your company have? What purpose does each device, vendor, key employee, location, and piece of hardware have within your organization? And what solutions do you rely on for communication and what will you do if those systems go down?

You can’t understand or prepare for every risk your company could possibly face. But you can start thinking about things you might lose and how you’d overcome the resulting challenges.

Think about downtime

Next, consider what’s absolutely necessary for your business to continue operations and start mapping out contingency plans for keeping those processes online.

We’ll give you a basic example. Let’s say you use email and smartphone for most of your internal communication. What will you do if your email server is offline and the cell phone towers are down? What’s your backup plan for communication?

Think through every detail. Who takes the lead on re-establishing communication? Do you start by reaching out to employees or customers? What will you coach employees to tell customers? And does everyone in your organization know this plan? (Because they should.)

All of that will serve to shorten the length overall downtime and minimize its impact.

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Implement preventative controls

Preventative controls help you avoid disasters. They’re not failsafe, but they do decrease your risk.

For instance, back up your business data regularly. That way, a disastrous hardware or software failure becomes an inconvenience (you have to restore the most recent backup) rather than a catastrophe (you lose a significant amount of data).

Preventative measures, like regular on and off-site data backups, represent an investment of time and money. Lower expenses where you can, but do not cut corners. Trust us. You’ll be glad you were on top of prevention if and when you need it.

Map out your recovery strategy

Finally, map out about your overall recovery strategy. Document as much as you can. Train your staff. And make sure there are copies of the plan in places where people can easily get to them.

Business continuity is useless if everyone doesn’t know the plan and isn’t prepared. Keeping everyone in the loop is absolutely critical. In fact, just the exercise of mapping your plan out will likely draw your attention to weak points in the plan.

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Final thoughts

Business continuity plans help you recover from a disaster and preserve your company’s long-term viability.

Taking the time to carefully assess your company’s assets, determine what’s critical, mitigate your risk, and figure out how to get key assets back online will save you when it counts. If you can afford it, this is definitely an area where hiring a pro is recommended. But if you can’t, don’t neglect business continuity. Do what you can to prepare your company.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Local and Cloud-Based Backups

Utilizing the power of technology is essential for any business trying to gain the lion’s share of their market. While using technology can be beneficial, there are a variety of dangers lurking around in cyber-space.

Nearly 50 percent of all cyber-attacks target small businesses. Rather than losing all of your data due to a network crash or ransomware attack, you need to think about how to back up your data.

Working with IT support professionals is one of the best ways to find out more about your backup options. For the most part, most businesses use a mix of local and cloud-based backups to keep their data safe and accessible.

The following are some of the things you need to know about cloud-based and local backups.

The Lowdown on a Local Storage Backup

While most business owners have heard the term local backup thrown around, many of them really don’t know what this type of backup entails. In essence, a local backup requires you to manually hook an external hard drive or other external devices to your computers to backup the data. Before cloud-based backups were invented, local backups were widely used by businesses all over the country.

Most businesses choose to lock up the external hard drives and USB flash drives used for this purpose in a safe. Not only does this keep them safe from prying eyes, but it can also reduce the chance of internal employee theft as well.

The Advantages of Local Storage

The biggest advantage of local storage is the control it provides a business owner. Instead of worrying about whether or not a third-party is adequately backing up and protecting your data, you can do this job on your own.

Some business owners prefer local storage due to the increased security it provides. Once a flash drive or external hard drive is removed from your network, cyber-criminals won’t be able to access it.

The Disadvantages of Local Storage

While there are a number of benefits that come with local backups, there are a number of problems as well. One of the biggest problems businesses face with this type of backup is finding the space needed to house all of the information they need to store.

Most business owners fail to realize just how expensive external storage can be. If your business has to house large volumes of data, you will have to spend a lot of money to facilitate this storage.

The Cloud Storage Revolution

One of the most recent developments in the data storage industry is cloud-based backups. The cloud allows you to store all of your data without having to break the bank. Being able to store all of your data off-site comes with a number of advantages. However, you will have to spend some time finding the right cloud storage provider to work with.

The Pros of Using a Cloud Backup

If you are like most business owners, you have a pretty full schedule. Trying to add the responsibility of manually backing up data to your plate can lead to mistakes being made. This is why using a cloud-based backup is so beneficial. With this type of backup in place, the data on your network will automatically be backed up.

Another benefit that comes with a cloud-based backup is the fact that it makes information accessible. Any device connected to your network can access the data on the cloud with the click of a button.

The Cons of Cloud Backups

The only real disadvantage that comes with using a cloud backup is data security. If the cloud backup supplier you have chosen does not have proper security measures in place, it can lead to big problems. This is why you have to take your time to research each of the providers on the market before making a decision.

Conclusion

In order to gain the benefits of local storage and cloud backups while minimizing the downside, more and more companies are using a combination of both. This gives you the security you need with the accessibility you want. If you need help determining what data backup solution is right for you, contact us now.

6 steps to take before choosing the right cloud solution for your business

More businesses have been making the most of cloud solutions and enjoying the competitive edge that comes with it. The great thing about cloud computing is that is can be tweaked and altered almost constantly to quickly meet the changes in an organization, positioning itself as a powerful tool for flexibility and scalability. So what exactly can the cloud do for you and your business?

Not surprisingly, there are still lots of businesses that are unsure about the cloud model. As with most things (technology in particular), you would be hard pressed to find a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. While the immediate benefits of cloud computing seem pretty straightforward, it needs a little know-how and digging to outsource your IT and find the right solution for your needs. Which is the right approach? How do you choose an appropriate cloud strategy for your IT needs? Which is better, public or private?

The first thing to know about the Cloud is that you have two options to store your data: a public cloud or a private cloud.

Private cloud

Also known as an enterprise or internal cloud, a private cloud is built exclusively for your business. Private clouds also rely on a company’s intranet or hosted center, meaning that your data is protected by a firewall. It provides all the efficiency of a public cloud but with a greater focus on control of management and security. Larger companies or those with strictly confidential data and regulation tend to opt for a private cloud for this reason. However, for some, having the sole responsibility of management and DIY network maintenance might be a drawback. So although a private cloud offers a considerably higher amount of security, replacing servers and dealing with other maintenance tasks can become costly and time-consuming.

Public cloud

Public clouds offer the same efficiency as private clouds but the main difference is that as a company, you’re not responsible for the management and maintenance of the cloud host. Your cloud provider deals with this, so many companies favor using a public cloud as it takes the stress and time away from testing and deploying new products. Unlike a private cloud, you don’t control the security in this case, a factor which repels some users. But although a public cloud may not share the same stringency as private clouds, data is still kept completely separate from others and it’s rare to see security breaches with public cloud services.

So how do you find the right cloud solution for your business?

1

Develop a project plan

The first step you should take is figuring who will be involved with what. Do you already know who will be responsible for migrating your data to the cloud? How long do you think the project will take? Who will be involved in the decision making process?

2

Cross reference with your data

Finding the right cloud solution for your business means knowing exactly what kinds of files you need to store. Separate your data. For example, if you have overly sensitive data such as financial or health records, you might instantly find that it narrows down the possible solutions, as you would need to prioritize security.

3

Be clear on cloud compliance

Moving to a cloud solution means you need to keep a close eye on how and where your data is stored so that you can stay compliant with federal law and industry regulation. Deciding what to store in-house and what to store on a cloud means that you need to ask the questions before legal asks you. Where is your data going to live? Who is looking after it? Who will be able to see and access it? Is the cloud segregated from other people’s data?

4

Look at your security features

Do some research into the levels of security measures each cloud provider takes to protect your data. A good cloud solution employs data security experts, professionally trained to scope out any high-level cyber threats in real time. Security with a good cloud provider should be predictable and will identify and analyze potential attacks. The most important thing you can do to ensure your data’s security is to make sure your provider offers this as well as multi-factor authentification so you easily access it when you need it via an IP address, device or user.

5

Know how users will need to access files

Before choosing a cloud solution, think about how your staff will need to access any files. Most providers will offer some kind of way for users to access the stored data through their computers. To do this, you’ll need to sync a copy of the entire file structure onto your device, which can take up a huge amount of space and become impractical. Find out what the provider offers in terms of accessing your files.

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How will your data be backed up?

Make sure the cloud you decide on has a redundant system so that there is always a backup of your files in the unlikely event of a system failure or unforeseen downtime with the cloud company. Having a solid data back up is a crucial aspect of your business. Be sure to be very clear on the disaster recovery plan that the company is offering. Be sure to also find out if they support file revisions in case you need to revisit an earlier version of a file.

 

What is the hybrid cloud and how can you use it?

Hybrid cloud technology gives you the advantages of using a cloud server and an on-site server. Many companies that want to use the cloud start by paying a third-party provider to access space on a public server. As companies grow, however, they find that they can also benefit from on-site servers that give them more control and security.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of hybrid cloud technology, you’ll want to learn about some of the ways that other companies already use it.

Hybrid cloud technology can save your business money

Surveys show that companies plan to spend a lot of money on cloud technology over the next few years. By 2021, the hybrid cloud market’s value should reach $91.74 billion.

Despite the industry’s growth, adopting hybrid cloud technology could help your business save money. If you solely rely on private servers that you keep in your office, then you will spend a lot of money on IT infrastructure. Remember that you will need an infrastructure and server that does more than handle a normal day’s request. You need to prepare for days when you need to meet the needs of more clients than usual.

With hybrid cloud solutions, you can always use a cloud server to scale on busy days. Instead of spending more money than necessary on your personal IT equipment, you can lower your overall costs by choosing essential equipment and accessing your public server when needed.

Your employees become more productive with hybrid cloud solutions

Most companies say that they want to invest in hybrid cloud solutions so they can use more cloud-based apps.

Today’s best cloud apps improve employee productivity by automating certain tasks, improving communication and making it easier to collaborate on projects. By adopting a hybrid cloud, you give employees the opportunity to use apps remotely as well as from their desks.

The hybrid cloud improves data recovery and business continuity

No matter how well you prepare, your business could lose important data after a malware attack. A fire, flood or other disasters could also harm your data recovery and business continuity.

The hybrid cloud improves your data recovery and business continuity processes by letting you keep data stored on a third-party server.

If a fire destroys the enterprise server that you keep on your premises, the data stored on the public server stays protected. Backing up your data to the public cloud means that you can get back to work quickly instead of losing money and clients while you try to rebuild.

In fact, using the hybrid cloud could mean that you suffer zero downtime. Your clients and customers may not even notice the disruption.

You get better security from hybrid cloud solutions

Hybrid cloud solutions give you two places to store your data and business processes. While some people believe that third-party servers put them at risk of malware attacks, your enterprise server is just as likely to get attacked.

By keeping your information in two places, you protect your data from malware and hackers. For example, if your private server gets overtaken by ransomware, you can delete your files to eliminate the threat. After deleting your files, you can access them from the public server you use.

You can stay at the forefront of technology

As your hardware ages, some of its features will become outdated. You may not want to spend money replacing the equipment, but avoiding the problem could cost you more money as productivity suffers.

You know that you need to replace your equipment when the hardware can’t run the software you want and needs frequent repairs. While you safely dispose of your old hardware and replace equipment with new models, you can use your public cloud server to avoid disruptions.

Whether you use a public or private server, you should think about the benefits of hybrid cloud solutions to determine whether the technology can help your business thrive.

The MCA approach to disaster recovery

You’ve built your business. It started as an idea, then it grew. Somewhere along the way, you grew as well.  You bought that fancy ERP system, you built accounts, analyzed revenue, tracked expenses and optimized your processes.  You’ve even bought those really expensive servers to run it all.

But if you’re honest, did you really give the same amount of attention to your “what if” plans? I mean, it probably was a “what if” that inspired you to start your business. It was most likely a “what if” that grew your business and optimized it.

But “what if your business immediately stopped”, probably didn’t make the list when planning. Yes, we are talking about a business. But it’s kind of more than that, isn’t it?  We’re talking about people, payroll, families, commitments, products and reputation.  It’s kind of a big deal.

At MCA, we focus on the things that matter, so you can focus on the things that matter.  This means asking the “what ifs” to avoid the “what nows?”.

Our approach to disaster recovery and business continuity

There is a big difference between disaster recovery (DR)  and business continuity (BC)—the difference being big in mindset, process and money.  So understand that disaster recovery is the action plan to recover critical systems. Business continuity is the execution of the preventative plan to keep all aspects of your business running despite an interruption.

Understanding the cost of downtime

To effectively plan, we need to know what is at stake.

  1. Develop your RPO and RTO – Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is the point in time which you recover to. For example, if you’ve backed up a file 30 minutes ago, and made a bunch of changes, and lost the file in the middle of the changes, your RPO would be 30 minutes, because that is the most recent version of the file in existence. Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the amount of time it takes to restore operations based on your RPO.  If using the previous example, the RTO of 30 minutes would mean that a restoration of a 30 minute RPO would make the file 60 minutes old.  This is because it took 30 minutes to restore a file that was 30 minutes old.
  2. Implement production solutions with the DR vs. BC, the cost of downtime, and your RPO & RTO in mind. Our goal is to implement all solutions with resiliency in mind.  If and where possible, implement technology solutions that can withstand RPO failures and can recover within the RTO.
  3. Implement a Backup and Recovery solution to recover from catastrophic disaster, user neglect and data corruption. Stuff is going to happen.  We still need to recover, and fast.   Corruption, deleted files and crashed systems must still be recoverable within the RTO and RPO window.
  4. Evaluate. Repeat. This process constantly evolves based on your business and technology needs.

You may not be able to stop unexpected emergencies on your own, but you can make sure your data is always protected. That’s the assurance data backup gives you.

Working with our disaster recovery & business continuity experts will be essential in the event of catastrophic data loss. When you know your data is safe and secure, you’re free to focus on the things that really matter to you—at work and at home. Now that’s peace of mind.

Contact us today to learn more about our solutions for data backup and recovery.

 

 

Which is better: a solid data recovery process, or a good data backup system?

For companies of all sizes and industries, data has become the new currency of the 21st century. Businesses strive fiercely to collect more information on their customers and unlock new analytical insights, giving them a competitive advantage.

Despite the tremendous value of this information, however, not every organization is taking adequate steps to protect it. According to a 2017 survey, 58% of small businesses say that they aren’t prepared for a data loss catastrophe. Perhaps that’s why data loss can be so devastating: the same survey found that 60% of SMBs who lose their data will go out of business within 6 months.

Organizations that want to safeguard their information in the event of data loss have two major options: data recovery and data backup. In this article, we’ll discuss the definitions of each of these options.

We’ll also cover why any robust data protection strategy must include both approaches.

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What is data recovery?

Data recovery is the act of trying to salvage lost, corrupted, deleted, or damaged data.

In the event of an unexpected outage, you may introduce errors and corruptions in data that was “in transit.” This means that the information was being written, read, transmitted, or processed at the time of the outage.

Other data loss incidents may occur when your employees accidentally delete important files and information, or when you physically lose a hard drive or laptop to a thief.

How does data recovery work?

For one, you’re not actually removing the files and data from your hard drive when you empty the trash.

Instead, the data remains on the drive until you overwrite it with additional data. The sooner you act after deleting a file, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to recover it.

If you encounter a corrupted file, you still may be able to recover it if you ask fast using specialized software. Even if you can only recover part of the data, this might save you hours of wasted effort as your business gets back on its feet.

Data recovery is a reactive strategy for data loss because you implement it after a catastrophe. Remember, you really need to perform data recovery as soon as possible after the catastrophe to ensure that you get back as much data as possible.

This is both to maximize your chances of a successful recovery and to return to normal operations quickly.

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What is data backup?

In contrast to data recovery, data backup is a proactive approach that creates redundant copies or archives of your files and information before disaster strikes.

While not the most frequent cause of data loss, natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and floods can wreak havoc on your recovery plans. However, your organization is far more likely to encounter disasters such as power outages, cyberattacks, and even user error.

In other words – if the physical drives and machines that contain your backups are destroyed, then you might as well not have made the backup in the first place.

For this reason, you should store your backups off-site in a separate physical location. To be most effective, you should also conduct your backups at regular intervals. You’ll also need to test them to ensure that they’re fully functional and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

How do data backups work?

Growing organizations have a wide selection of data backup tools at their disposal.

Using cloud software suites such as Office 365 and Google Drive can be helpful because they automatically save your documents in the cloud whenever they are changed. However, remember that you can’t manage and back up all of your files and information automatically using cloud software.

You need a dedicated source of backup that can securely capture and contain your data.

Remember that your backup solution should reflect your business needs. If you prioritize recovery speed, there’s a specific solution out there for you. But if you’re more interested in more methodical, large-scale backups, you might need a different solution.

Regardless, your smartest move is to talk to a data backup expert that can help you determine (and implement) a tailor-made solution.

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Why SMBs need both data recovery and data backup

You need data recovery and data backup for different situations. However, you need both to be truly resilient in the event of a data loss catastrophe.

Businesses with particularly large or complex operations may need to back up their data at daily or even hourly intervals. Nevertheless, even the most powerful data backup solutions can’t preserve all of your information all the time. To fill in the gaps between your scheduled backups, you’ll need a data recovery solution that retrieves the unsaved changes that haven’t yet been backed up.

Getting your operations back on track after data loss is critical – but far too many businesses fail to do so. It doesn’t matter how large your business is or what services you provide. You need a comprehensive strategy to protect your enterprise data that includes both data recovery and data backup.

Working with the right managed IT service provider will be essential in the event of catastrophic data loss. Contact us today to learn more about our solutions for data backup and recovery.

Want to keep reading? Check out Hardware Disposal Pro Tips For Small Business Leaders.