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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:

6 IT Best Practices for Your Business

When it comes to the growth and long-term success of your business, you must actively address your IT needs. Although each organization is unique, there are basic IT best practices that every business should know.

The best way to approach these best practices is to break them up into specific areas so that they become more manageable.

From cybersecurity to an effective disaster recovery plan, it is imperative that you follow these suggested best practices in order to protect your business.

Cybersecurity

IT best practice #1: Create and promote a cybersecurity culture

It is imperative that you create a modern security culture within your workplace. The best way to do this is to educate your employees by holding regular meetings. Whether you’d like to discuss the threats associated with phishing emails, insecure networks, or password sharing, this the first step when aiming to protect your company from cyber attacks — many of which are continuously evolving.

IT best practice #2: Develop procedures to prevent ransomware attacks

It is critical that you develop an in-depth cybersecurity policy, ensuring additional levels of security. Whether that means running scans on a quarterly basis, maintaining an up-to-date inventory of your devices, or automating software updates, you need to sit down and create a preventative plan. This helps prevent ransomware attacks as you develop proactive cybersecurity habits.

Data backup

IT Best practice #3: Implement the 3-2-1 backup rule

The strategy is rather simple. Regardless of the size of your business, you should keep three files of your data. In addition to the original data, it is recommended that you keep a minimum of two backups (two locally and one off-site). You can read more about the 3-2-1 backup rule here.

IT best practice #4: Use the cloud as a backup solution

The cloud will allow you to back up your data on a remote or off-site server. In turn, your most critical data will be better protected. This storage solution is also highly flexible and allows for a more rapid, reliable recovery process in the case of a disaster.

Please note: Best practices in regards to cloud backups include frequent backups, backup testing, and encrypting your most critical data. To avoid downtime, remain compliant, and gain greater peace-of-mind, learn about how you can craft an effective cloud backup plan here.

Hardware/software maintenance

IT best practice #5: Ensure your hardware and software is up-to-date

If you leave your server unpatched, do not install the latest firmware, or avoid fixing the latest software bugs, you could become vulnerable to attacks and/or lost productivity.

Last but certainly not least, whether you are concerned with your company’s current cybersecurity strategy, are unsure how to effectively perform backups, or would simply like to enhance the overall productivity of your business, this leads us to the final best practice.

IT best practice #6: Outsource your IT needs

If you do not currently have an internal IT team, or there are components of your IT support that you’d like to take off-site, managed IT services can handle all of your needs.

Not sure if you’re ready to partner with a managed service provider? Here are 5 signs that will help you determine if it’s time to make this crucial transition. For more information, you can also reference the following — 5 Ways Managed It Services Help Growing Businesses.

Looking for further support? Have questions about how you can take your business to new heights? If so, please contact us today!

Data Backup and Security Best Practices

Thanks to automation and convenience, data breaches are becoming more prevalent.

Hackers are becoming savvier by using tools to infiltrate entire infrastructures. They’re exploiting cryptocurrency to circumvent identification. And, of course, they’re targeting ransomware attacks to procure funds with some added social engineering to divulge vital information from unsuspecting employees.

In other words, there’s a lot of different ways they want to get to your data.

These efforts often lead to costly data breaches, which cost U.S. businesses an average of $7.91 million in 2018. Without protected data backups, you can risk losing trade secrets and risk exposing sensitive and private customer data, such as Social Security numbers and addresses.

It’s vital to have data backup as part of your security strategy. Luckily, there are several ways to keep your data secure.

Here’s how you can get it done.

1. Have an Actual Plan

Having a data backup plan is the essential first step to ensuring the security of your data. You must develop a data backup plan that takes into account each step of the recovery process.

It should include a variety of elements, including:

  • The full process of how your data backups work (cloud-based, offsite, etc)
  • The plan for recovery from the backup site to your systems
  • The timeframe for getting your systems back up and running

Without a data backup plan, you’re putting your company at financial risk. Remember – planning for the worst is a whole lot easier to do before the disasters strike. Otherwise, you’ll be struggling to put pieces together from a broken infrastructure.

Related: Disaster Recovery Planning vs. Business Continuity Plans

2. Test and Audit the Data Backup Plan

Your data backup plan needs to be tested and audited so that you can quickly identify any vulnerabilities within it. With proper testing, you can ensure that your systems do not overlook critical updates and patches that hackers can easily exploit.

After all, there’s no better way to see how it works than to actually test the plan.

You should also audit your data backup strategy to ensure it’s up-to-date with the latest technology and best practices. In practice, this include reviewing user permissions, ensuring you’ve enabled multi-factor authentication, double-checking the proper encryption on your data backups, etc.

Related: The Critical Elements of an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan

By taking the time to test and audit your data back and security practices, you can reduce the chances of a data breach happening. And, if one does, you can boost your recovery speed dramatically.

3. Look to the Cloud

With any data breach, you’re bound to experience data loss.

That’s why it’s crucial to take advantage of cloud backup storage services. With cloud backup storage, you can easily access your data from secure remote servers that hackers will have a hard time accessing.

Related: 3 Data Loss Horror Stories

In the event of a disaster, cloud backup data also becomes crucial for providing access to your data. There are several options for cloud backup services, so ensure you choose services that align with your data backup strategy and recovery plans. You can also leverage the help of experts in data backup recovery to ensure that you’re using the best cloud backup services.

4. Prepare Your Team

From spear phishing to social engineering, hackers come up with several different techniques to infiltrate IT infrastructures. That’s why part of preventing data loss calls for ample staff education practices.

You should facilitate security best practices training and include it as a part of your data backup strategy. Though not strictly related to backup and recovery, the proper training in place allows your team to better identify vulnerabilities and plots by hackers to procure vital information.

With a security-minded team at the helm of your data, you can significantly reduce incidents that put your business in jeopardy.

Here’s Some Helpful Content: A Guide for Crafting a Small Business Data Backup Strategy

The Critical Elements of an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan

As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” — and when dealing with data, this saying could not be more accurate. Whether your company faces a hardware failure or falls victim to a computer virus, having an effective disaster recovery plan in place is imperative.

Although large companies and corporations tend to plan for a wide array of possible disasters, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) do not often implement a disaster recovery plan until it’s too late. Unfortunately, such an event causes approximately 60% of SMBs to shut down within six months.

If you have not yet developed a disaster recovery plan, today is the day to do so. However, not just any recovery plan will do. In order to truly protect your data and in turn, your business, you must be mindful of key, critical elements. This will ensure the best possible outcome following a disaster.

The True Cost of Data Loss

Your data is one of the greatest assets you have (if not the greatest). Once you lose your data, your company will face serious consequences. As stated in one key report, when a company experiences an outage that lasts more than 10 days, they will never fully recover financially.

Furthermore, an estimated 25% of businesses will not reopen following a significant disaster and within five years, 50% will be out of business. Of the businesses that do experience a disaster and do NOT have an emergency disaster plan, 43% will not reopen their doors and within just two years, only 29% will still be in operation.

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The following stats are rather shocking, showcasing some of the reasons why a recovery plan is so critical:

  • Approximately 40% of SMBs do not back up their data at all.
  • Approximately 44% of data loss is a direct result of unexpected mechanical failures.
  • A hard drive crashes every 15 seconds, and 1 in 5 companies will experience a fatal hard drive crash in their lifetime.

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Related: You Can’t Plan for a Disaster, but You Can Have a Disaster Plan

Implementing Key Elements In Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Although an incomplete disaster recovery plan is better than no plan at all, in order to truly protect the long-term growth and success of your business, your recovery plan needs to be airtight.

In short, to prevent a data loss disaster, you need to be mindful of the following elements and take preventive action today.

Element 1: An analysis of possible threats and disasters

In order to plan for a potential disaster, you need to understand what that disaster may be.

Overall, risks tend to be categorized into one of the following: external risks (i.e. natural or human risks), facility risks (i.e. fire, flooding, power outage, etc.), data system risks (i.e. viruses, bugs, failed data storage systems, etc.), departmental risks (i.e. missing door key), and desk-level risks (absence of key personnel at work).

Pointing right fingerBottom line: You must first assess all possible risks to better understand the potential threats. What risk factors are most likely to impact your business?

Element 2: A communication plan + a predetermined recovery team

Once a disaster occurs, clear, rapid communication is critical.

Have you created reliable communication channels? Also, those involved in the recovery plan should understand their role. For example, who will redirect phones? Who will assess the damage? Who will set up temporary workstations?

Pointing right fingerBottom line: When disaster strikes, everyone should step into their role with confidence. Everyone needs to be on the same page, working together to ensure a positive outcome. Also, be sure to record a complete inventory of all hardware and software on-site.

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Related: 3 Data Loss Horror Stories

Element 3: Have an evacuation strategy in case of an emergency

Hurricanes and other natural disasters, as well as fires, can cause a state of panic. Having a safe evacuation strategy is imperative during an emergency. These routes should be practiced during periodic drills. You can also run test drills to practice your current plan in relation to potential system failures, hackers, etc.

Pointing right fingerBottom line: Walk your employees through your disaster plan every six months or so and test on a regular basis, making adjustments as needed.

Element 4: Include a business continuity plan

If a major disruption occurs, what’s next for your business?

This component will include plans and arrangements to ensure that you can still operate. Be mindful of the necessary resources and data that will be required to support business continuity.

Pointing right fingerBottom line: You need to plan ahead in terms of key business operations, including an IT recovery strategy. This means that you will need to regularly back up your data BEFORE any issues arise. Start by identifying the data you need to back up so that your business can continue to thrive following a disaster. Then, follow the 3-2-1 backup rule.

Combining the Elements of Disaster Recovery

At the end of the day, the actions you take today could significantly impact the future of your business. Once you have written your first disaster recovery plan, allow it to evolve with your company and make sure it is always up-to-date. Your disaster recovery plan will be of no use if you made significant changes to internal systems but not your plan.

As new technologies arise and new processes are implemented, these will need to be considered in terms of your disaster recovery plan. Then, once changes are made, test your altered plan.

Still unsure how to effectively protect your critical data? Contact us today. We can help you craft a foolproof plan that works 100% of the time. You’ll never have to worry about problems – instead, you can relax knowing your data is safe and sound.

The 3-2-1 Backup Rule: Why It’s Important

Your company’s data is one of your greatest assets. However, many businesses do not implement the required tools and systems until a situation occurs. At this point, it may be too late. That is why proactive measures are imperative.

For those currently seeking a backup and recovery solution, the 3-2-1 rule is a concept you should be mindful of. Acting as the best practice for data backup and recovery, it’s important to get into the habit of utilizing this highly effective strategy.

What Is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule?

When broken down, this proactive strategy is rather simple.

The “3-2-1 backup rule” means that you should:

  • Always keep three files of your data, including the original copy in addition to a minimum of two backups (two locally, which will be stored on different devices; as well as one offsite).
  • In relation to data backup, be sure to store your data on two separate storage types.
  • An on-site disaster could quickly wipe locally stored information — even if the data was stored on two separate devices. This is why you must also backup your data to an offsite location.

So, you should essentially store three backups, two locally and one remotely — hence the “3-2-1 rule.” No matter happens, this means that you’ll have a copy of your data.

Why Is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule Relevant?

According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies who lost their data center for 10+ days due to a disaster situation filed for bankruptcy within one year of the initial occurrence (50% filed immediately).

From disaster situations to system failures, security breaches to accidental deletion, there are many causes of data loss. In fact, it’s reported that approximately 70% of all businesses have experienced (or will experience) data loss.

For this reason, the statement, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is incredibly relevant. By implementing the 3-2-1 rule, you can effectively implement preventative measures to avoid future data loss. As discussed, this could be the deciding factor between a company’s failure or long-term success.

How Your Business Can Implement the 3-2-1 Backup Rule Today

To begin, you must first create a backup and recovery plan. In doing so, you’ll not only develop beneficial systems but will also become more mindful of any weak spots within your company’s current security mechanisms and data storage systems.

Could hackers easily get into your systems?

Perhaps you have yet to address your virus-protection programs?

All of these are important to consider moving forward.

In terms of the 3-2-1 rule, this three-step strategy should become an immediate priority.

  • Step 1 – Create a minimum of three copies. Your first copy will be your primary source of data (stored on your internal hard drive), followed by two copies stored on two independent devices.
  • Step 2 – Physically store your two backup copies in two different media sources. For example, you should store your first copy on an external hard drive. The second copy should be stored on another device, such as an SD card or USB drive. You can also store two copies on internal hard drives, as long they’re stored in separate locations.
  • Step 3 – Always create an offsite backup. If your company doesn’t have another branch office, storing to the cloud is an ideal choice. To transfer your backup data offsite much more rapidly, built-in WAN acceleration may be of interest to your company.

Starting today, it’s important to view your data as investment capital. By implementing the 3-2-1 rule, you can gain peace-of-mind while preventing a potentially disastrous situation — the type that could potentially put you out of business.

Stephen Covey said it best, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

Looking for ERP and IT solutions? Please contact us today!

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!