Thursday, August 25, 2016

Disaster Recovery

What would you do if tomorrow you experienced a major, business interrupting event? Fire, flood, break in; what would you do to get your business up and running again? Would you have all the information you need? Where would you move to? How long would your business be interrupted?

If you have answers to these questions, great! You have likely spent some time thinking about a disaster recovery plan for your business. However, if these questions left you feeling semi-anxious and ill prepared, don’t worry. The 3 steps below will get you on your way to being disaster ready:

Write a One Page Plan

Develop a one page disaster recovery plan. In this plan outline what you will do in the days following a disaster. Go through what information you need to keep your business intact. Secure vendor lists, pertinent contact information, and any other relevant details you would need to reboot your business. Keep this plan in the cloud, so that you are able to spring into action should your business be halted by an unforeseen event.

Discuss Your IT Solutions

Do you work with an IT provider? Have you discussed disaster recovery plans with them? If not, we recommend having this conversation with them as soon as possible. Find out if they are prepared to assist you should something occur. Find out how long it would take them to restore your backup to new hardware, in the event of hardware theft or destruction. Having this discussion with your provider means you are both on the same page and have the same expectations regarding what they will do to help, and the timeline of events.

Secure a Temporary Workspace

If your physical workspace is destroyed, do you have options so that you are able to keep working? Discuss temporary office space with fellow business owners and come to an agreement that you can each provide temporary workspace in the event of a major disaster. This kind of arrangement is mutually beneficial and gives peace of mind. Another option is to restore your files to a new piece of hardware and work from home. How quickly could you make space in your home to work there? If home is not an option, then securing emergency work space in other office is a great alternative.

Hopefully after reading this article, you already have answers to some of the questions asked at the beginning. Writing your plan, discussing your IT needs, and securing a temporary workspace are 3 ways to ensure your business is able to become fully operational soon after a business interrupting disaster. By being disaster ready, and having relevant conversations with colleagues, there will be no question as to the plan of action in the event of an emergency. Your business will be up and running, barely skipping a beat.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Backups 101

Backups 101

We have all heard cautionary tales about data loss and failure to safely back up our data. Computers fail and 1000s of photos, music, and important files are lost. You may have an external hard drive and back up occasionally, but you may not know that external hard drives are not the most secure or reliable option.

One of the quickest ways to ensure your personal or business backups are done on time, and at the right frequency, is to automate them. Backing up manually places the onus on the user or employee to complete the backups themselves. Busy schedules often put doing our backup at the bottom of the to-do list. By automating this process, you ensure that your data is safe and secure.

While automating backups to a physical hard drive in your home or office is a good start, external hard drives themselves are not necessarily the most reliable choice. External hard drives have a life expectancy and can fail at any time. Relying solely on an external hard drive for your data storage could leave you vulnerable to mass data loss. In addition, ransomware attacks are now targeting local backups and are specifically looking for those to encrypt. By backing up to the cloud, rather than locally, your data is not accessible to ransomware attacks.

While you should maintain a local, hard drive backup, you should also have a cloud based backup of your data. In the event you need to restore your data, it is much quicker to do so from a hard drive, as opposed to the cloud. Cloud based backups and storage are the most secure, reliable, and effortless way to backup our data. Cloud based storage means you do not have to worry about hard drive failure, damage, or computer loss or theft, you can rest easy knowing your files are secure in the cloud.

Max Sadlowski of Sadlowski Consulting knows the importance of cloud backups from personal experience, “A client of mine once left their work laptop on an airplane in the seat pocket, upon realizing that the laptop was gone about 3 hours later, the laptop was nowhere to be found. The next steps for the client were to buy a new computer, download a single application, and within 2 hours, had her complete computer restored as if it had never been lost. If she had not had an up to date, cloud backup, the client would have been severely impacted”. Let me know if you like this anecdotal bit here from Max. We were chatting and he reminded me of this incident with a former client.

Frequent, automated, and monitored backups is your best defence. If you are backing up regularly, even if your computer is lost or stolen, you can get up and running again on new hardware with little stress or interruption to your business.

Monday, June 13, 2016

2016: The Year of Ransomware

2016 The Year of Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that is installed on a computer, restricting and infecting the device, demanding that the user pay a ransom to the malware operators to remove the restriction. Ransomware is hostile and can spread to your server and all the computers on your network, quickly and without your knowledge. Even if you have antivirus protection on your machine this may not be enough to keep your devices and data safe from ransomware. Antivirus software is always one step behind in terms of your protection. They can only protect you from known malware and predictable variants. While they do try and predict and protect you from viruses yet to be released, they are not perfect and should not be your only line of defense against malware.

If you run a small to medium sized business, you may be thinking that you are not a target for ransomware, that these malware operators won’t bother going after such small organizations. In reality, small businesses make perfect targets for these kinds of attacks as they often have little in the way of protection and backups. “Small business is classically unprepared to deal with ransomware”, says Bill Hughes, Managing Director of Weehooey. Small businesses do not have the resources to withstand their business being halted, and so they often settle and pay the ransom so they can keep their lights on and doors open.

Finding and prosecuting those operating these malware attacks is virtually impossible. Anyone can purchase this malware. It is monetized, building momentum, easily accessible, and can quickly be used to encrypt network drives. It is hard to remove and untraceable.

According to Hughes, “2016 will be the year of ransomware”. Make sure you business is prepared and protected for a potential ransomware attack. Your best defense is thorough, secure, and frequent backups of all of your company’s data. If you have a complete backup, pre-ransomware install, you can restore your data easily, and the malware operators no longer have leverage. Backups need to be cloud based, as traditional external hard drives can fail, deteriorate, or be compromised.

Protecting your small to medium sized business through knowledge and more frequent and thorough backups can help immunize you from ransomware attacks and keep your business running.