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The 6 biggest benefits you’ll get from an ERP system

At some point, you’re going to want to look into ways to make your business more effective and streamline your business process. You’re going to want it to be cost-effective, and able to withstand any future changes to your business. You also want it to meet the specific needs of your business, to focus on your strengths, and identify and remedy any weaknesses.

That’s where an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system comes into play. ERP management can integrate all of the different aspects of your business including purchasing, planning, inventory, sales, marketing, budgets, and human resources. 

Before installing such a system, you’ll want to ask yourself how the benefits of ERP can best serve your business needs.

1. A better view of your business process

Many companies suffer from not being able to look at all of the different aspects of their business, how they’re operating together, and then determining if what is happening is working in the company’s best interest. Decisions become more difficult. Efficiency drops, as do profits.

By centralizing business data–sales, inventory, resource allocation, and others–you can improve the “big picture” of your business to determine where bottlenecks or other problems may lie. You can uncover what conditions might be leading to customer dissatisfaction.

Armed with this information, you can determine which departments might be able to enhance their performance, reduce repetition, or improve their supply chain. Streamlining your business process will lead to a more efficient and productive business.

For mobility advantages with a centralized system for accessing information and business applications, your employees have an easier time conducting business in the field. Orders are placed more efficiently, inventory information is more quickly available, service calls are streamlined, and more.

2. Improved cooperation

While a certain amount of autonomy among the various departments within your business makes good sense, sometimes it can block communication. By centralizing how data is collected and shared between departments, you can reduce wasteful, repetitive procedures and ensure that everybody is working with the same up-to-date information.

When you add cloud computing with shared resources, you can also step up your company’s collaboration game. Projects get completed more quickly and employees have immediate access to information, no matter where they are physically located, as long as they have a secure Internet connection.

3. Enhanced inventory control

ERP systems are particularly useful when it comes to keeping track of inventory, orders, supply chains, and services. Every item and resource can be followed from start to finish. This controls situations in which orders get lost or shipped incorrectly, or when manufacturing gets held up from lack of supply or people-power.

Nothing gets lost in the shuffle. This saves you time, money, and aggravation.

4. Greater customer service

With an effective enterprise resource planning program in place, customers should be able to place orders more easily and even track the order’s progress themselves. They will know who to contact and how, should issues arise or they wish to amend their order.

ERP can be used to oversee customer interaction, information, and history. This means sales teams are better equipped to interact with customers–even preparing solutions for customers before the customer is even aware they’re needed.

5. Stronger security and regulatory compliance

Some businesses turn issues such as security and regulatory compliance into a “fix it when it becomes a problem” sort of scenario. This can end up being expensive and can lead to unwanted downtime. It would be better, perhaps, to have these issues addressed and handled at the very start. That’s something an ERP system can do.

Network security protocols, firewalls, encryption, and other IT issues related to keeping your data safe and your communications protected can be set up when creating your ERP system. If regulatory compliance is prioritized at the beginning, you save yourself headaches later.

6. Scalability benefits

ERP software systems are not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. Rather, it can be customized to fit the unique needs of your business and, better yet, adapted to meet the changing needs of your business over time. There is no risk of starting over again in a few years after your business grows or changes focus.

Users of your ERP system can be added or removed as your staff changes. Inventory and services can be adjusted to fit the evolving nature of your business. In short, the scalability and flexibility of an ERP system can serve your needs for the long term, while delivering savings by reducing installation costs of a new system every few years.

Implementing an ERP system

There are many reasons to implement an ERP system. Most come down to improving the efficiency of your business process, the productivity of your employees, the effectiveness of your customer service, data and communication security, and adhering to a managed budget.

It’s important to do your research on ERP system providers and insist on one who treats you as a partner, understands your business’s unique needs, and feels invested in your success. At Appsolute, we are keenly interested in how we can help best express your business through technology. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about how we can do that.

The 4 elements of a solid disaster recovery plan

Data loss is something that will affect most businesses at some point. Although it’s wise to have a prevention strategy in place, you also need to embrace the inevitable and create a disaster recovery plan.

The aim of a disaster recovery plan is to mitigate the harms that come with massive data loss. If you’re trying to create one that’s solid, you need to incorporate the following elements:

A detailed inventory

Across the United States, small and medium-sized businesses are set to spend $684 billion on IT in 2021. Most of that expenditure will come from hardware, although that’s set to change in the future.

With that in mind, there’s a chance that your business is doing some serious spending and will continue to do so. As a result, one of the best ways to prepare for a disaster is to have a detailed inventory.

From physical servers and power supply equipment to VoIP and phones, make sure you include it all. Creating a detailed inventory of what you have and how it’s configured gives you a better chance of repairing or replacing it in the event of a disaster.

Identify responses to disasters

Around 98% of organizations say an hour of downtime can cost them $100,000. It’s much easier to waste precious minutes when you haven’t clearly defined your responses to disasters. In contrast, knowing what they are in advance will prevent you from wasting time thinking of solutions.

For example, if you’re aware that IT downtime could bring certain essential processes to a halt, is it worth hosting some of them in the cloud?

In doing so, you could give your employees the chance to work on some processes remotely, which prevents you from losing too much money.

Create a clear outline of roles

According to some statistics, around 57% of employees feel as though they’re not given clear directions. Although that’s easy to rectify during everyday processes, it soon results in a crisis when you’re in the middle of a disaster.

While creating your disaster recovery plan, clearly identify who is going to take on what role. Make sure everyone is familiar with each others’ roles too so there’s no ambiguity about who needs to formulate a response. As a part of this, create a sheet of contact details, roles, and list who may need to communicate with each other.

If you’re going to be really thorough, you’ll also need to assign a person for each crucial role as you don’t want sickness or vacation to impede the success of your disaster recovery plan.

Refresh your disaster recovery plan

Your disaster recovery plan shouldn’t remain inflexible. In addition to personnel changes, technology is a constantly evolving area. You may acquire new equipment and new processes, which means your plan will need updates.

The average employee turnover rate in North America is around 23%. That’s a significant proportion of your workforce, especially when you’re relying on continuity in terms of IT disaster recovery. This doesn’t mean you need to refresh your plan every time someone leaves or joins your business.

Instead, assess the impact of every employee loss or gain on the disaster recovery plan and form an appropriate response. Provide a full refresh only when it’s necessary to do so and focus on educating new team members the rest of the time.

Overall, your disaster recovery plan should exist as a living document. Ensure it evolves as your business does and make sure it contains plenty of detail. Always make sure key stakeholders can pitch in their contributions and you should be able to form a solid plan that minimizes losses.

Need guidance with disaster recovery planning?

If you’d like a second pair of experienced eyes on your disaster recovery plan, you can always count on the AppSolute team. Contact us today and we can help ensure your plan is airtight – and we can even help you create one from scratch.

The top 7 ways data backup builds a better business

Could you imagine business life without data? From your clients’ information to files on the latest projects, all your data plays a central role in helping your business move forward. It’s often the case that businesses don’t realize how important data is until it’s gone. Because of this, it’s hard to understate just how necessary data backup is. If it hasn’t been one of your primary concerns recently, now’s the time to learn about how it builds a better business.

Your business becomes more reliable    

Although local data storage comes with its perks, it’s also risky in the event of a complete hard drive failure. Losing the contents of your hard drive means that your data is gone forever. The exception to this is if you use an additional form of local storage, although there’s always a chance that could fail too.

If you want to avoid the perils of a hard drive failure, consider using cloud storage as a backup. When your data enters the cloud, you don’t need to worry about what will happen if your hard drive fails. You can continue using local storage but your business becomes more reliable because of your contingency plan.

You reduce the cost of downtime

According to some studies, data downtime can cost as much as $1 million dollars per incident. Let’s say your data becomes inaccessible for some reason. Said reason could be anything from an electrical failure to having to move offices due to an adverse weather event. When this happens, not having a data backup plan results in you having to close your business until the problem is over.

When you consider that some adverse weather events can last for days at a time, closing your business is less than ideal. In extreme cases, the recovery period following severe weather events lasts for weeks. This could mean a significant loss of revenue, which you become responsible for.

Having a managed backup plan means you can access your data, even when the worst happens. Although you won’t always be able to run your business at full capacity, having access to the essentials prevents a complete shutdown and helps you continue with as much normality as you can manage.

Employees enjoying their teamwork.

Your IT team has an easier workload

IT teams dedicate a startling amount of time to frontline tasks such as data recovery. From small lost files through to significant wipeouts, it’s almost as though they’re firefighting in a digital world.

Of course, your IT team’s job isn’t all about managing data losses. They have other tasks to tend to too, but they may not have enough time to tackle them. By using a data backup service, you ensure that your IT team can do more than just tackle file losses. They’ll also have the chance to focus on tasks such as network security and other important elements of IT management.

You’ll find that data backup is easy

Local backup comes with a draining downside: everything is manual. Transferring files to your hard drive is a lengthy process and if you lose power in the middle of it, you need to start all over again.

In contrast, data backup using a remote facility requires little more than a few clicks. Depending on the type of plan you choose, you may also find that it’s automatic. When you and your IT team don’t need to dedicate as much time to backing up data, you can direct your processes to other areas of your business and help it thrive.

You get professional input from a tech team

In most cases, using a data backup service means you’re turning to an external team of tech professionals. They’ll oversee the backup process and they’ll manage any problems that come with it.

Having a team of professionals on your side also means someone’s there to manage any security problems. This means there are fewer drains on your business’s resources and your data backup takes place without you having to give it a second thought.

Your business is globally ready

If you want to do business internationally, you need to ensure your business is globally ready. The use of cloud storage allows you to achieve this in a couple of ways.

First, your data is available no matter where you are. This makes you incredibly flexible as you’ll no longer need to take external hard drives with you.

Second, cloud backup usually comes with super-tough encryption. As different countries have different security policies, the use of a cloud facility increases the likelihood that you’re compliant with the regulations of the country you’re doing business in. As a result, you may not need to make major adjustments to your processes to guarantee that you can press ahead with your plans.

Your data is more secure overall

On the topic of security, using a data backup service means your information is more secure overall. As the per-record cost of a data breach is between $120 and $600, it’s clear that most businesses cannot afford major failures in this area.

Unlike local hard drives, cloud backup benefits from security that’s near-impossible to break through. That doesn’t mean that breaches don’t happen but they’re far less likely to happen when compared with local storage.

In exchange for your increased security, you prevent a potentially significant loss of revenue. Additionally, you avoid a catastrophe that could harm your business’s reputation. Even large businesses struggle to recover from data breaches. Worryingly, data loss can slow your revenue growth by 22%. Arguably, it’s harder to bounce back when you’re running a small or medium-sized organization.

There are many business benefits to data backup. You can reassure your clients that you’re reliable, continue managing your business during a power loss, and reduce the likelihood of a big fine following a data loss.

Everything a Good Business Continuity Plan MUST Have

One of the biggest buzzwords in the business world is continuity. But if that means that business continuity is on your radar, that’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, buzzwords (or phrases) are a double-edged sword. They become so common that you start to ignore them. Ignoring business continuity will be to your detriment.

So, let’s spend a few minutes exploring business continuity, how it’s different from disaster recovery, what could happen if you don’t have a continuity plan, and six essential things your plan should contain.

Business continuity vs. disaster recovery

At first glance, it can seem like business continuity and disaster recovery are the same thing. However, disaster recovery is a part of business continuity. As it’s only a part, you need a complete business continuity plan that moves beyond just disaster recovery.

Disaster recovery is mostly concerned with backing up your data. The thinking is simple enough. When disaster strikes, the negative impact on your business will be far greater if you lose all your critical data. So, disaster recovery plans give you a way to protect that data by making sure there’s a backup copy.

Business continuity, on the other hand, aims to address all the ways your business will be affected in the wake of a disaster. In addition to data backup, it includes factors such as maintaining communication, ensuring critical business processes stay online, continuing to provide your employees with the tools they need to do their jobs, and enabling your customers to contact you as needed.

You need both kinds of plans.

Internal Meeting about planning.

“An effective business continuity plan lays out the instructions and procedures an organization must undergo when some kind of disaster occurs.”
– TechRepublic

What if you don’t have a business continuity plan? 

Instead of looking at all the bad things that may happen, reflect on all the good things you’ll miss out on. For example, work won’t be completed, revenue-generating activities will stop, and your ability to communicate internally and externally will come to a grinding halt. You’ll start to lose ground at the moment of disaster and you won’t regain any ground until you identify a way to get things up and running again.

Unfortunately, getting things up and running again or securing business continuity is tough without a plan. As a result of all these consequences, your reputation will take a considerable hit. Even worse, if your competitors appear prepared and you don’t, you may lose business to them.

The 6 essential elements of business continuity

If you’re ready to start building out your own business continuity plan, the best option is to contact your managed IT services provider. They’re already familiar with your business and will be ideally situated to help you put together a solid BC plan.

But if you’re planning to take a DIY approach, here are the things your plan should include.

1. A literal, written plan

This may seem obvious, but not everyone thinks about it. Your business continuity plan should be written down. If you lack thorough documentation, you don’t have a complete business continuity plan.

2. Arrangements for addressing critical operations

Some processes are more critical than others. You need to decide what the most critical operations are for your company and then build out plans for maintaining or restoring them in the event of a disaster.

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Related: Data backup and security best practices 

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3. Clear documentation of who’s responsible for what

It’s not enough to have a plan for maintaining and restoring critical processes. You also need to know who is responsible for each part of each plan. Making sure these details are crystal clear reduces the risk of everything falling apart in the event of an emergency.

4. An emergency communications strategy

What will you do if all the cell phone towers are down? How will your team stay in contact with each other? You need to think about communications strategies that address worst-case scenarios.

Off-site backup example.

5. Off-site backup

Data backup is important. But to really protect your data, you need to do more than back it up. You need to back it up off-site. Doing so ensures that even if your office is literally destroyed, your data will remain intact.

“Putting in the advance groundwork during quieter times not only leads to cooler heads during more turbulent times, but will also make a tremendous difference to your customers, employees and future business performance.”
-CIO

6. An alternate work location

Finally, you need a plan for moving business operations to another location in the event that your office can’t be used. When this happens, can your staff do everything remotely? Is there another office in a neighboring city that could handle things for a while? Be prepared for this possibility so your business operations flow smoothly.

Making business continuity happen

Business continuity is always going to feel like something you’ll have time to do later. The problem is, if you don’t already have a plan before you need it, you may find yourself in hot water.

We strongly recommend that you put a business continuity plan together, now. Trust us—if the day comes that you need it, you’ll be glad you did.

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Keep reading: Cyber Threats in 2019

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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.

Going down chart

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.”

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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!