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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

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!

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.

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

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

Disaster PlanA disaster can happen at any time and, for businesses, they usually happen when it’s least expected. Natural disasters, fires, or data breaches can wreak havoc for a busy business and the disruption can cause a ripple effect, impacting production, customers, vendors and other operations. Having a disaster plan is critical for maintaining an appropriate level of business continuity and successfully making it through the disaster.

Businesses grow and change and the disaster plans of yesterday may not adequately protect a business during a disaster today. According to “How Small Businesses Are Taking Advantage of the Latest Trends in Disaster Recovery,” posted by Roy Castleman on TheVarGuy.com, there are several new ways  businesses are protecting operations during crisis situations and the latest trends in disaster recovery may strengthen your own disaster plans. Here are several factors to consider when putting your disaster recovery plan together or updating an existing plan.

  1. Know what to focus on first: In the event of a disaster, it will be nearly impossible to get business back up to 100% all at once. Determine what operations should stay running or which data you need to protect or recover from backups first. Estimate the amount of time you need to perform these tasks and how you’ll go about it.
  2. Consider the cloud: The use of cloud technology for disaster recovery is increasing amongst businesses for a number of different reasons. A hybrid cloud can quickly replicate data from either on-premise or offsite data centers. In addition, upon disaster, the cloud can be used to run operations until production services become functional and synchronized with data in the cloud.
  3. Social media: Popular social networks, like Facebook or Twitter, can be used to share information with employees, stockholders and other business partners during a disaster.
  4. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS): There are businesses that can provide disaster recovery services, supporting small and mid-sized businesses with plans and guiding them through a disaster.
    The businesses that prepare recovery plans are more likely to come out of a disaster faster and intact. Position your business to weather a potential disaster by having a plan and knowing how to execute that plan. Contact AppSolute Consulting Group to learn more about preparing for disaster by having the right tools and technology in place.By AppSolute Consulting Group, LLC, Microsoft, Acumatica, and Sage Partner based in New York