One of the most dangerous yet common mistakes business owners make is assuming “it will never happen to me”. However, there are only two types of people: those who have had a data loss and those who are about to. What would happen to your business if you had a major data loss? The possibility is definitely there; this can’t be denied. Data loss disasters come in many forms, ranging from simple human errors to “acts of God” that cannot be controlled. However, you can control how you prepare for them. Here are eight questions you can ask yourself to test your disaster preparedness. First: Do we back up our data? It’s amazing how many small businesses do not have a backup system in place. It’s so easy to assume disaster won’t strike you. But data loss doesn’t always come from huge, cinema-worthy disasters. They can result from simple everyday errors – yet have huge disastrous results. Don’t let this be you. Do we back up all of our account information? Many small businesses tend to keep their accounts data on one employee’s PC, instead of the network which is on their backup schedule. But what if you lose your customer database? Be sure it’s included in the files to be backed up. Do we back up our email files? Ever wish you had that one email from a few months back, in which a customer gave you the “go ahead” – but now they’re refusing to pay for your work? These days, email is increasingly used as legal evidence of agreements or notices to proceed. If they’re included in your backup, you can easily pull up even deleted emails – received or sent. Is our Calendar and Contact information backed up? What if you came to work one morning and your online calendar and address book was gone? What appointments and communications would you miss, and at what cost? Most of the time, by default your Outlook Contact and Calendar files are stored on the individual PCs. Make sure these files are included in your backup set. Do we back up folders and files from each computer? In addition to important information that is stored in shared networks, think about the files that each of your employees create and use on their own hard drives. Spreadsheets, letters, memos, databases – wouldn’t it be a shame to lose all that work? Are we always saving our files to an area that will be backed up? Consider where each and every file your work on is being saved. Will it be included in your backups? Develop policies and educate your employees on where to save their work so it’s included in your backup schedule. Do we back up data frequently enough? This answer to this question is – how much work are you willing to risk? Say you complete an important contract on Tuesday morning, and an employee accidentally deletes it that afternoon. But you only run backups on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Bye-bye contract! A more frequent backup schedule would have saved the day. Do we know where our backups are and how to use them? If you use USB drives, external hard drives, or backup tapes for your backups, are you storing them offsite in a safe place? Even if your files are backed up to the cloud, do you know how to recover them in case of an emergency? Knowing your backup system and keeping it safe will ensure you can get back to business quickly and efficiently. Even if you already have a backup system in place, take a few moments to think about your specific business. If the unthinkable happened, exactly what data would you need to get back up and running? What could you not operate without? Once you identify these things, simply make sure they are included in your backup. Need help? We’re experts in guiding small businesses in setting up a backup system that meets their unique needs. Give us a call today to discuss the options available to keep your business data safe and sound.
Before you entrust your sensitive data to a “cloud” service provider, make sure you weigh the risks with the benefits. “ Cloud computing ,” largely synonymous with Internet-based computing, has become a hot topic of discussion among many in the business community, with its promise of radically simplifying the access to, and use of, computing resources on demand. It’s no wonder then that it’s been small businesses, often without full-time IT resources of their own, that have been the first to adopt the concept. As a business owner, however, before you start moving critical data to the “cloud,” you’ll do well to bear in mind the risks that come with the computing model. First is security and privacy—ask how the service provider ensures the confidentiality and integrity of your data while in their care. Do they provide backups? Can you back up your data yourself? Are their security processes and procedures reviewed and vetted by a third party? Next is availability. Do they guarantee the uptime of their services—7 days a week, 24 hours a day? Do they provide a service level guarantee? Do they have processes in place to handle exceptional circumstances that can disrupt services, such as a natural disaster? Is support readily available to help in case you encounter any issues? Finally, there’s cost. While pay-as-you go can be attractive, the total cost over time can add up. It’s worth thinking two to three years out and considering the total cost versus alternatives. Asking these basic questions can go a long way in giving you peace of mind before you entrust your valuable data and core business systems to the care of others. If you’d like some help sorting all this out and making the best decision for your unique needs, give us a call.
With the start of a new year, businesses commonly implement changes and launch new initiatives that have ramifications for your IT environment. Ignore them at your own peril. Chief among your IT considerations should be a Business Continuity Plan, or BCP, which will allow your business to resume normal operations in the event of a significant data loss or network downtime. Unfortunately, recent studies have found that about half of small and midsize businesses have no BCP. That’s a huge risk; more than half of companies that experience catastrophic data losses go out of business within a couple of years. And while it’s important to have a plan in the first place, it’s equally important that your BCP is flexible and scalable to adapt as your business undergoes changes. Software installations, modifications, and updates as well as the addition of new hardware are an important part of business continuity planning. You must ensure your backup, storage, and recovery procedures and systems are kept current with these changes. Improper maintenance and outdated procedures can lead to backup errors that result in costly data losses. Unfortunately, some companies discover these errors too late – when they try to recover the data. In addition to the IT considerations of a BCP, don’t ignore the human element. Someone, typically your IT staff, has to be in charge of overseeing BCP execution. But it doesn’t end there. Other employees have their roles, too, but do they know what those roles are? Have they been brought up to speed on the importance of backup and recovery, and what they need to do should you experience a catastrophic data loss? Has your business produced and printed a manual for employees to use as a reference? Let us help you assess your business continuity strategy to make sure it takes all relevant aspects into account and is kept current with your evolving needs. Your business may depend on it.
Data breaches are costing companies more than ever, according to a recent study—and smaller companies may be most at risk. Data losses, which can result from theft or carelessness, are a downside of the information age. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), more than 35 million data records were breached in 2008 in the United States—47 percent more than in 2007. How much do data losses cost? The Ponemon Institute, which studies business privacy practices, surveyed 43 U.S. companies across 17 industry sectors that lost data in 2008. According to the study, data losses ranged from 4,200 records to 113,000 records, and each data record lost cost $202—making the total cost between $848,400 and $22,826,000. That number was up from $197 per data record lost in 2007, $182 in 2006, and $138 in 2005, the first year the study was conducted. Why are data losses so costly? When you lose data, a number of costs are incurred, including detecting data losses, notifying victims, paying for victim reparations (such as free credit checks), and hiring experts to remedy the problem. You also must account for business lost as a result of customer mistrust. In fact, in the Ponemon study, $139 of the lost $202 per data record represented the cost of lost business. Small companies may suffer the most from data losses. Another study conducted earlier this year by StollzNow Research asked IT managers from 945 companies about their experiences related to data management. They found that an alarming 49 percent of small companies fail to back up their data on a daily basis. This is despite the fact that nearly half of all participants experienced data loss in their workplace in the past two years, and 36 percent felt that data loss could have a significant impact on their business. Don’t put yourself at risk. We can help you prevent costly data loss by implementing a policy for the preservation of data, and by installing and testing backup systems on a regular basis. Related articles: Tech Managers Often Underestimate Impact of Data Loss Study: Data Losses Proving More Costly for Businesses
With the continuous proliferation of data and its increasing importance to business, it has become critical to implement measures to safeguard it. One such measure is to make sure you have a data protection, backup, and recovery system in place. The threat of data loss from hardware failure, malware , or disaster is very real. A little proactive effort will go a long way in ensuring the integrity and continuous availability of your critical company data. Talk to your IT consultant to find out more.