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5 Server Maintenance Tips and Tricks to Better Support Your Business

Each and every day, you likely go about your daily business without giving your server much thought. They typically operate 24/7 without much hassle, but like all machines, they do require some level of maintenance.

This is why you need to take a proactive approach.

As you monitor and maintain your server, you will be able to help prevent a possible failure — one that could quickly turn into a disaster. To help guide you, we have created a little tips and tricks checklist. That way, you can avoid costly outages and unnecessary headaches.

Consider These 5 Server Maintenance Tips and Tricks

Unlike larger companies, you may not yet have a dedicated IT department. If this is the case, you may be currently weighed down by technical tasks that are somewhat out of your wheelhouse. The following tips and tricks are intended to guide you. However, if you are completely in the dark, it’s best that you seek the assistance of a managed service provider.

In the meantime, consider the following:

Tip #1: Update your OS

This may seem obvious. However, there are many businesses that are using outdated operating systems, leaving their companies vulnerable. All it takes is one attack, like WannaCry, for you to face a highly disruptive, potentially detrimental situation. The key here is to regularly update your operating system so that it supports regular patch releases. If you don’t, you may not have issues for months, even years — but eventually, an unpatched server will catch up with you.

Related: 9 Things You Can Do to Outsmart Ransomware Attacks

Tip #2: Clean your server

If you have your server tucked away in a closet, it’s important to physically clean it on a regular basis. Although quality servers have fairly powerful fans, that does not mean that dirt and dust can’t settle in the server’s case. This will increase the temperature within the case, potentially leading to a range of issues — including a potential fire. If your server has filters, clean them on a regular basis and use compressed air to access hard-to-reach places.

Tip #3: Check for potential hardware errors

Review your company’s system logs in order to identify signs of hardware issues. From network failures to overheating notices, it is important that you’re aware of how your hardware is operating. This is particularly important if your system has not been running as expected recently. However, even if there are not any apparent issues, checking your logs for hardware errors should become a standard part of your server maintenance strategy.

Tip #4: Confirm that your backup server is running properly

You may have already gotten into the habit of checking your backup system on a weekly basis. However, are you actually verifying that your backups are working as expected? Often overlooked, this step is imperative in regards to a solid backup plan. Even if you decide to outsource this task, you should still have a firm grasp on all the elements within your plan, including the schedule, backup location, and recovery times.

Tip #5: Move to the cloud

The cloud has allowed companies to reduce to reduce outages, which is why you should move at least a portion of your infrastructure to the cloud. This step will help you streamline your operations, hosting, data storage, and more — all while increasing speed, flexibility, and overall peace-of-mind.

Still in need of support? Please feel free to contact us regarding your IT service needs.

Also, be sure to read the following helpful resources:

Include These Key Steps and Elements to Create a Solid Cybersecurity Strategy

Being aware of the most recent cybersecurity trends is imperative when planning for the future. It’s especially true when you take into account the more than 7 in 10 U.S. organizations that were impacted by a data breach over the past few years.

The majority of those affected are small-to-medium sized businesses.

Understanding the associated threats is the first step towards the development of a solid cybersecurity strategy. This will allow you to take a proactive approach, creating a reliable security plan before any issues arise.

SMBs Face Significant Cybersecurity Threats

In the headlines, you often hear of security breaches in regards to large corporations.

Naturally, they’re significant enough – they involve the personal information of thousands (if not millions) of customers. Still, you seldom hear about the more common victims — those who own or operate small businesses.

It makes sense, as from a hacker’s point-of-view. A small business will have more digital assets than a random individual, and they also have fewer security protocols in comparison to larger organizations.

They’re the unfortunate perfect target for these cybercriminals. But all hope is not lost.

In addition to working with a professionally managed service provider, you must be aware of best practices for your business. Start with the basics and continue to invest in vulnerable areas, focusing on firewalls, two-step authentication, data backup solutions, encryption software, etc.

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Related: 8 Business Benefits of Having Managed Services

The Elements in Your Cybersecurity Strategy

When it comes to the current and future success of your business, cybersecurity is a serious issue — and the stakes are higher than ever before. If you are ready to get serious about cybersecurity, be mindful of the following elements and recommended steps.

Step 1: Get (and Stay) Informed

When it comes to a solid cybersecurity strategy, there is one element you need to be aware of — human error. The human component can significantly weaken your level of security, especially if training is not a key priority.

Within your company, you should assign the role of Chief Information Security Officer. This individual (or team of individuals) will have authority and funding to ensure the protection of company data and the IT infrastructure. Although there should be levels of hierarchy, you should provide training for each person within the organization.

From spotting phishing emails to avoiding possible malware attacks, remember that knowledge is power. The key here is due diligence and overall awareness. In addition, if a breach does occur, team members should already know how to respond.

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Tip: Be sure to hold regular meetings and training sessions in regards to software updates, data backup plans, and overall security measures. When you create a culture of cybersecurity in the workplace, you will be able to implement a more effective, proactive strategy.

Step 2: Create and Implement Your Strategy

In order to create a solid cybersecurity strategy, you need to first be mindful of vulnerabilities.

For example, what threats do you currently face in relation to network security? How can you perform your due diligence in regards to cloud security or application security? Do I have the right hardware and software in place to adequately defend my data?

These are the types of questions you must ask yourself.

These elements will coincide with your disaster recovery plan, which you can read all about here. To ensure best practices, depending on your industry, you can rely on some of the latest industry standards, including ISO/IEC 27001 and HIPAA.

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Tip: It is important that you customize your cybersecurity strategy based on the specific threats and vulnerabilities your company faces. In the latest framework, presented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, you may view key areas to consider (in addition to suggested guidelines).

Step 3: Monitor and Test Your Infrastructure

Creating a cybersecurity strategy is only half the battle. In order to ensure that it’s solid, you must monitor its activity and perform regular tests to ensure that it works. While monitoring your IT infrastructure, be sure to generate incident reports that showcase unusual activity.

By building a threat intelligence base, you will gain greater insight and improve your ongoing strategy. Remember, as technology continues to evolve, new threats will likely surface. Your cybersecurity strategy will need to adapt to these changes, improving overall risk management.

In addition, you must implement a comprehensive response plan — just in case a breach does occur. Once you have developed your disaster plan, you should run a drill to better understand and/or refine your current procedures.

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Tip: If you discover a potential risk, it is important that you have a response checklist prepared. For example, you should record the date and time that the potential breach was discovered, before re-securing the equipment or systems in question. To ensure that no data is lost, always follow the 3-2-1 backup rule prior to any problematic incidents.

AppSolute Protects SMBs Around the Clock

As Neil Rerup, famed cybersecurity architect, once said, “True cybersecurity is preparing for what’s next, not what was last.”

At the end of the day, everyone is at risk when it comes to cybersecurity. As an SMB, it’s imperative that you take action before a problem arises, as a data breach could potentially put you out of business.

If you have any questions regarding your company’s security needs, please contact us today. We can work to protect your data and your clients with next-gen solutions and experience technicians.

Disaster Recovery Planning vs. Business Continuity Plans

Many businesses use the terms ‘disaster recovery plan’ and ‘business continuity plan’ interchangeably. Although both critical components following a disaster, they are independent of one another.

That means that if you have a disaster recovery plan but have failed to complete a business continuity plan (and vice versa), here’s what you need to know.

The Difference Between a Disaster Recovery Plan and a Business Continuity Plan

When a major disaster strikes, more than 40% of all businesses will never recover — and for those who do, only 29% are still operating two years later.

Taking a proactive approach will help ensure that your business not only survives a disaster but is still able to thrive. If you have not taken any action in terms of disaster planning, here’s what you need to know about the following plans (and what they mean for your business).

  • Business continuity plan — If a disaster were to strike, would you be able to continue operating your business? If not, you are significantly reducing your chances of survival. This plan will allow you to re-establish and continue services. That way, you can become fully functional in the shortest amount of time possible. Within this plan, you must think about the most critical operations and processes within your organization. That includes your dependence on equipment, personnel, servers, software, finances, etc.
  • Disaster recovery plan — This will be included within your business continuity plan but should be treated as its own separate entity. Your disaster recovery plan is essentially a subset of your business continuity plan. Disaster recovery is typically more technical, as it mostly focuses on the impact of lost IT services. When developing this plan, you should be aware of the 3-2-1 backup rule.

Bottom line: Your disaster recovery plan is more data-centric. It will allow you to restore and recover lost data following a disaster. In comparison, your business continuity plan is more business-centric. It includes strategies that will minimize downtime following a disaster based on core business operations.

Although different, both plans share the same goal in that they help sustain business operations.

Related: 3 Data Loss Horror Stories

Make Data Protection a Top Priority

As you can imagine, if you developed a business continuity plan but not a disaster recovery plan, it would be challenging to continue operations. Once you lose your data, your company essentially loses its most important asset. This means that it’s not a matter of developing one or the other — but rather how you balance both plans.

Of course, each organization is unique, so you will need to focus on your company’s specific needs. Many small-to-medium businesses benefit from outsourcing these processes, as a third-party can simplify both of these plans. Managed services can also be much more affordable in the long run — especially in terms of productivity.

Related: 5 Signs That It’s Time to Partner with a Managed Service Provider

Also, please be mindful that a disaster recovery plan goes far beyond copying your data. When developing this plan, you will need to outline how often you implement your backups, where you store your copied data, and anything else surrounding data recovery.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity with AppSolute

The takeaway here is that although closely related and in many ways reliant on one another, your disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan are not the same. Now is the time to ensure that both of these plans are up-to-date and that your team has been strategically involved.

With the evolution of cloud-based services, companies of all sizes can now easily afford to implement these plans. Don’t wait until disaster hits to develop critical strategies — contact us today to learn more!

A Guide for Crafting a Small Business Data Backup Strategy

Data backup is a necessity for businesses small businesses. The information you store on your computers is critical to keep your company in business. Imagine what would happen if you lost your customer records, accounts receivable, and accounts payable records. It would be difficult or impossible to keep your business running.

This guide will help you establish a backup strategy for your business.

Why is Data Backup So Critical?

Data backup is critical because you never know when something will happen that threatens your data and your livelihood. Consider these examples:

  • Pixar was close to abandoning the movie Toy Story 2. An employee entered a server command by mistake that began deleting animation files, eliminating a year’s worth of work in 20 seconds. Then, the Disney team discovered that their backups had been failing without anyone noticing. Luckily, one of the supervisors had done backups to a personal computer and the movie was saved.
  • A wedding photographer transferred the photos from one of his client’s event to his computer and reformatted the memory card in his camera to prepare for the next job. When the hard drive on the computer failed, along with the backups the photographer had assumed were running, all the wedding photos were lost.

Data loss can happen because of hardware failure, system problems, a natural disaster, or someone leaning on a computer keyboard. Given how devastating a data loss can be, a secure plan is required.

Steps for Developing Your Small Business Data Backup Strategy

The following steps will assist you in taking an organized approach to developing a data backup strategy that meets your company’s needs.

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1. Determine what needs to be backed up

You may think this is an easy task, but if you have employees, you may find that you have important data stored in a variety of places, including:

  • File servers: If you have a file server, you hope that all of your company’s data is stored there. However, it’s very possible that individual employees aren’t aware of the need to use the file server, or they don’t think it’s convenient, and you have data stored in many different places.
  • Employees’ local drives: It’s easy for employees to assume that the hard drive attached to their computer is always safe, especially if they’ve never experienced a hard drive failure.
  • Employees’ USB drives: USB drives are also sometimes considered to be a safe haven for data storage. However, given the fact that they can be lost or stolen and aren’t free from failure, it’s best to encourage employees not to use them.
  • Laptops: Employees who are mobile may be using laptop computers, and probably don’t think about transferring their files to a central file server.

Since you’re preparing a data backup strategy, take the opportunity to talk to every employee to identify the places where data is stored.

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Related: 8 Business Benefits of Having Managed Services

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2. Decide on Your Backup Goal and Method

Different backup approaches support different goals. Decide whether your business needs the ability to restore data, or to maintain your operations. In addition, decide where you should store your backups.

Today, you can store backups in the cloud, on-premises, both, or some of each. If you choose just one of those alternatives, you’re limiting your ability to recover from a problem. Using a combination or hybrid approach will help you recover from almost every type of failure.

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Related: What Does an MSP Actually Do?

There are two basic methods for performing backups, file level and image level. Any employee can use file-level backups to a server for easy access. To protect an entire system, image-level backups will allow you to do fast recoveries, especially if you use a continuous recovery model where each backup is restored as it is created.

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3. Consider What You are Protecting Yourself Against

The odds are that you need to protect yourself against an employee deleting a file or files. In that situation, performing file-level backups is a good solution. However, you’ll also need to protect yourself against a real disaster.

A natural disaster such as flood or tornado could easily destroy all of your local data. If your backup hardware is in the basement of your office, no recovery will be possible. If you experience a fire in your office, the damage might not extend to your backup servers in the basement. However, if your backup strategy was for every employee to do file backups to that server, your recovery process will take much longer than you want to wait.

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4. Develop Your Strategy

With the information you’ve gathered and the decisions you’ve made in steps one through three, you’re ready to document your strategy.

The strategy document should include an overview of everything that has led you to documenting the strategy. Putting the strategy in writing will help you in a couple of ways:

  • You’ll have a record of the assumptions and decisions that support the strategy. You will know when it’s time to update the strategy when those assumptions are no longer valid.
  • You’ll have a basis for training your employees. In most situations, all employees will need to understand why backing up is important, and their role in the backup process.

Next Steps

Once you’ve defined your strategy, put it into effect and test how well the strategy is working on a regular basis. Many companies have run into trouble because they assumed that their strategy was effective, and lost crippling amounts of data as a result.

If you’re wondering where you’ll acquire the expertise and the time to create, implement and maintain an effective backup plan, keep in mind that our AppSolute experts can relieve you of those burdens.

Contact us for more information today!