8 Cold Hard Truths for SMBs Not Worried About Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
The foundation of any successful business continuity solution is the ability to retrieve data from any point in time from anywhere. When the topic of data recovery and business continuity comes up, you get the feeling that many decision makers at smaller businesses and organizations wish they could channel their inner six year old, simply cover their ears, and sing “La, la, la. I Can’t Hear You. I’m Not Listening.”
Everybody things bad things only happen to other people. Just because we hear about a fatal car accident on the morning news, doesn’t mean we fixate on that news when we ourselves get into a car and drive to work.
So no matter how many times the owner or CIO of a small to midsize business (SMB) hears of other small businesses being crippled by hurricanes, tornados, fires, or flooding, they aren’t necessarily overcome with fear to the point that they feel an urgency to take action.
Sure, they may think about backup and data recovery solutions a little more that day, but not enough to initiate immediate change or reverse a lenient approach to their processes.
If you fall into this category, here are eight cold hard truths to consider
It isn’t natural disasters or catastrophic losses like fires that take down small businesses but something far more sinister – malware. Cyber attacks through malware have grown exponentially in the past four years. Malware is hitting everything from PCs to Macs to mobile devices and it’s inflicting damage.
Over half of the small businesses in the U.S. have experienced disruptions in day-to-day business operations. 81% of these incidents have led to downtime that has lasted anywhere from one to three days.
According to data compiled by the Hughes Marketing Group, 90% of companies employing less than 100 people spend fewer than eight hours a month on their business continuity plan.
80% of businesses that have experienced a major disaster are out of business within three years. Meanwhile, 40% of businesses impacted by critical IT failure cease operations within one year. 44% of businesses ravaged by a fire fail to ever reopen, and only 33% of those that do reopen survive any longer than three years.
Disaster recovery solution providers estimate that 60% to 70% of all business disruptions originate internally – most likely due to hardware or software failure or human error.
93% of businesses unable to access their data center for ten or more days filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident.
In the United States alone, there are over 140,000 hard drive crashes each week.
34% of SMBs never test their backup and recovery solutions – of those who do, over 75% found holes and failures in their strategies.
It’s critical that small businesses review their backup and disaster recovery processes and take business continuity seriously. Given the vulnerabilities associated with the cloud and workforce mobility, the risk of critical data loss today is quite serious and firms must be truly prepared for the unexpected.
There has been a lot of hype about cloud computing transforming the way small-to-medium sized businesses do business. Proponents of the cloud say that cloud computing has leveled the playing field, allowing SMBs to finally compete with bigger companies despite their limited financial resources and staffing.
Still, many are apprehensive to make the jump. They’re hesitant to give up control and they fear the cloud will expose them to greater security risks. Moving to the cloud definitely requires a leap of faith, but a recent ComScore study, completed on behalf of Microsoft, suggests that those who are froggy enough to take the leap (sorry) have no regrets once they do.
In fact, more than half of those surveyed wish they had adopted it earlier and feel that the benefits far outweigh their initial worries.
What are those benefits?
Enhanced Privacy and Security
According to the study, 94 percent of companies who’ve adopted cloud services believe they’re now more secure than they were before, thanks to the cloud’s spam management and up-to-date systems and antivirus protection.
Less Downtime and More Confidence
61% of those surveyed reported fewer instances of downtime since their move to the cloud. Even those who still experienced downtime events felt that they were shorter in duration and that full recovery could be achieved much quicker.
93% indicated that they were more confident in their ability to fully recover after an outage. Comparatively, 73% responded that they felt the integrity of their data in the cloud was stronger than previously, which is interesting since data integrity has often been the biggest worry about the cloud.
Any company striving to be more “green” will appreciate the environmental benefits of moving to the cloud. A recent six-month study conducted by the Berkeley Lab found that moving 86 million U.S. office workers to the cloud resulted in the use of 87% less energy, leaving enough leftover electricity annually to power a city the size of Los Angeles for twelve months.
Cost effectiveness and greater ROI (return on investment) are the most important factors in getting CEOs and major decision makers to support shifting to the cloud. A Rackspace commissioned study conducted by Vanson Bourne, found that 62% of respondents felt that adopting cloud computing strategies freed up money that could be reinvested in other operations like marketing, customer service, product development, and expansion into new markets.
While there is a competitive advantage that can be realized by moving to the cloud, those who are still apprehensive should migrate to the cloud at a pace they’re comfortable with. Once they implement cloud monitoring, and understand it a bit more, most SMBs grow more comfortable with the cloud and expand their use of it.
A recent article by The Guardian (UK) states that the cloud industry is set to see a growth of around 30% soon. But many small and medium business owners are still struggling to make sense of the cloud and how it can benefit them. If you are one of them, then here’s what’s in store for you when you migrate to the cloud:
1. Connectivity - Being on the cloud gives you unparalleled connectivity to your data—from anywhere and at any time. All you need is a device that can connect you to the web and you are set!
2. Save On Hardware Costs - Using the cloud for certain programs spares you the cost of investing in specific hardware. Even devices as simple as your smartphone or a tablet can help you access those applications so you don’t have to spend money on dedicated hardware. Studies have shown that cloud users end up enjoying as much as a 17% IT cost reduction compared to their non-cloud counterparts.
3. Cloud Enables SAAS - The cloud allows you to use software as a service. Microsoft 365 is one such example. When you use software as a service, you enjoy certain benefits such as more regular updates at a lower cost and the ability to have anyone work on the program for you by sharing the access credentials with them.
4. More Efficient Use of IT Staff - Moving to a cloud-based environment puts the burden of maintenance and downtime reduction on your service provider. That means you can use your limited IT staff more efficiently and also don’t have to worry about the costs associated with such maintenance or downtime.
5. Improved Productivity - Studies have shown that cloud users enjoy better productivity than their non-cloud counterparts. This could be because cloud service providers are better equipped to handle any IT eventualities than the average SMBs.
So, perhaps it’s time to ‘get cloudy’ and enjoy all that the cloud has to offer your SMB. And…if you need help in doing that, we are just a phone call away!
Small business owners are often worried about data loss. Rightly so, because data loss has the potential to wipe out a business. We have identified the most common forms of data loss so you can see how they fit into your business and assess the risks related to each of these pitfalls.
1. Human Error - Human error – by way of unintentional data deletion, modification, and overwrites – has become much more prevalent in recent years. Much of this is the result of carelessly managed virtualization technology. While virtualization and cloud computing have enabled improved business continuity planning for many businesses and organizations, humans must still instruct this technology how to perform. The complexity of these systems often presents a learning curve that can involve quite a bit of trial and error. For instance, a support engineer may accidentally overwrite the backup when they forget to power off the replication software prior to formatting volumes on the primary site. They will be sure to never do that ever again, but preventing it from happening in the first place would be more ideal.
2. File Corruption - Unintended changes to data can occur during writing, reading, storage, transmission and processing – making the data within the file inaccessible. Software failure is a leading cause of data loss and is typically the result of bugs in the code. Viruses and malware can also lead to individual data files being deleted and hard drive partitions being damaged or erased.
3. Hardware Failure - Storage devices may be at risk due to age, or they may fall victim to irreparable hard-disk failure. Viruses and hackers can also potentially shut down a hard drive by inserting undeletable malicious code and huge files via open, unprotected ports. If these malicious programs cannot be deleted, the entire hard drive may have to be reformatted, wiping out all the data.
4. Catastrophic Events/Theft - The threat of catastrophic events such as fire, flooding, lightning and power failure is always a concern. Such events can wipe out data in a millisecond with no warning. Theft is also a data loss risk that companies must address. While advances in technology like anytime/anywhere connectivity, portability and the communication/information sharing capabilities of social media and crowdsourcing have revolutionized business – the risk for theft is even greater due to this increased accessibility. More people are doing daily business on their laptop, iPad and mobile phones. They are also carrying around portable media like thumb drives, USB sticks and CDs. Physical theft of any of these devices can spell big trouble.
Data loss is as unique as the various sources from which it comes. The key is to identify the areas in which your business is weak and work towards a mitigation plan for each one of them. An MSP can act as a trusted partner in such cases, holding your hand through the process of safeguarding your data.
Health Care Providers and Managed IT Services: Why are They Inseparable?
In healthcare, there is absolutely no escape from the mandatory utilization of technology. From the simple task of setting an appointment to billing and procedure codes, everything requires an intensive use of protocols that can be implemented only through the use of technology. HHS mandates these processes across the board, from a doctor who is operating solo to the largest hospitals. All HIPAA covered entities must adhere to rules and standards set forth in ANSI 5010 starting Jan. 2012 and ICD-10 starting Oct. 2015. Needless to say, all providers need help using the technology that is designed to bring efficiency and accuracy to the health care system.
Let’s discuss why doctor’s offices and clinics need managed IT services.
You’re a Medical Professional: As a doctor you don’t have the knowledge to repair your own networks in case there is a failure. Your support staff is trained to make appointments and take blood pressure, draw blood along with several other medical-related responsibilities. They don’t fix computers for a living.
The prohibitive cost of an in-house IT team: Hiring an IT staff even as part-time employees can be very costly, and even full-time staff may not provide all your support needs. System failures can be very unpredictable and technology can be a 24/7 concern. IT support based solely on your own payroll is not typically a practical choice for doctors or clinics.
Data security: This is a very serious issue in health care. Medical records of patients must be protected according to HIPAA requirements. Laws governing health care provides stiff penalties and fines in the case of a breach in patient’s private information. You need to make sure that your networks are impenetrable. There are even requirements now to prove that you’ve had a qualified professional attempt to hack your systems on a routine basis. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) specialize in technologies that will safeguard your data. There are also software maintenance and upgrade issues to be addressed. Outdated software and hardware can expose your systems to hackers. An in-house IT team may be too busy to keep up with the changes, thus making your data vulnerable.
Monitoring: The best way to avoid critical breakdowns and security breaches is 24/7 monitoring. This is the surefire way to avoid and control security breaches, viruses and hacker attacks, but it isn’t something a small firm can do on its own. It requires the presence of 24/7 labor plus investment in exceptionally sophisticated software and hardware. This sort of investment is not practical for smaller firms.
Government regulations: Now there are new government regulations in place that all health care providers must comply with. The purpose is to speed up the billing process and promote more accurate diagnostic records, all while protecting patient privacy.
ICD-10 and ANSI 5010: The World Health Organization has updated the international system of coding diseases. It is called ICD-10, with implementation mandated by Oct. 1st 2015. Implementation of ICD-10 requires the use of the new billing system called ANSI 5010, which was to take effect on Jan. 1st 2012. These regulations are designed to improve the information flow between systems so the providers will get paid faster and the patient’s conditions will be diagnosed more precisely.
Electronic Health Records (EHR): The government now mandates that all the patient’s health records be maintained electronically. Also, this mandate provides for the patient’s right to know who has accessed their medical records and when. The patient portals that are gaining popularity will be another task to manage.
So what does all this mean for health care providers in terms of managing their networks? More data volumes, more software packages, and more privacy headaches.
At the end of the day, you have to decide what your priorities are as a health care provider. It should be to provide the best care to your patients without having to worry about your infrastructure. As a MSP, we can ensure your focus remains on healthcare.
Managed Service Providers – or MSPs – are often recommended as a cost effective IT solution for small businesses. For a minimal monthly fee, MSPs provide a reasonably priced solution to the complex technology pains of small businesses. Here’s a look at the various benefits an MSP can offer your business…
Freed-Up Resources and a Renewed Emphasis on Core Business – Both business owners and internal IT staff would much rather focus on revenue enhancing tasks like product development or the creation of cutting-edge applications/services. This is one reason routine monitoring and maintenance tasks are often neglected by an internal IT person or team, which always proves to be detrimental much later.
Often misportrayed as a “threat” to an internal IT person or staff, MSPs can instead relieve internal staff of mundane network operations maintenance, repetitious monitoring of server and storage infrastructure, and day-to-day operations and help desk duties.
A True Partner Sharing Risks And Responsibilities -The goal of an MSP is to deliver on contracted services, measure, report, analyze and optimize IT service operations, and truly become an irreplaceable catalyst for business growth. Managed Service Providers not only assume leadership roles, they enable risk reduction, enhance efficiency and change the culture by introducing internal IT operations to new technologies and processes.
Access to Expertise, Best Practices and World-Class Tools and Technologies – MSPs have experience with a variety of businesses and organizations. Managed Service Providers can keep your business relevant and on track with continually evolving technology, support, and productivity demands. Let’s face it, no small or medium sized business can afford to fall behind with technology trends in today’s business world.
The Benefit of a Full-Time Fully Staffed IT Department at a Fraction of the Cost – Most small business owners live and die by proactive management. They just haven’t had the budget, resources or access to on-demand expertise to be proactive with information technology management. A Managed Service Provider gives business owners and overwhelmed internal IT staff affordable computer and server support, remote monitoring of critical network components like servers and firewalls, data backup and disaster recovery, network security, custom software solutions, and technology evaluation and planning.
Managed Service Providers can decrease the overall IT support costs by as much as 30% to 50%. Rather than being stressed about technology, business owners can instead get back to focusing on growing their business. All while enjoying the benefits of highly-trained IT experts boosting their network’s reliability and performance.
Think Quicker Recovery Time, Not Quicker Backup - While incremental backups are much faster than executing a full-backup, they also prolong recovery time. In the event of data loss, a full restore will require loading the most recent full backup and then each incremental backup tape. Having too many incremental backup tapes not only adds time to this restoration process, but it also increases the probability of not recovering all of your data. A tape could be lost, unintentionally skipped over, or contain corrupted data. Be sure to focus on optimizing the restore time to ensure faster data recovery. A quicker recovery time should be the main objective, not the need for a quicker backup process.
Maintain Sufficient Backup History - Within the blink of an eye, current data files can become corrupted and inaccessible. This will necessitate the loading of an earlier data backup that is clean of corruption. Many smaller companies make the mistake of failing to keep a sufficient backup history.
Be Sure to Backup Essential Data AND Applications - Some businesses don’t feel the need to backup all data, but be sure essential databases, documents and records are backed up frequently. Don’t overlook applications that are critical to day-to-day business operations either. Many companies fail to backup applications, only to realize when it’s too late that they don’t have access to the original installation disks when they’re trying to recover from data loss or an outage.
Have Off-Site or Online Backup - Some businesses backup data simply by moving essential files to tapes or external hard drives that are then stored somewhere onsite. But if they’re kept onsite, what happens if a fire, flood or other natural disaster takes out not just your server but your backup tapes and drives? Onsite backups can also be susceptible to theft. Having secure off-site, or even online backup, is simply the smart thing to do to ensure quick recovery when trouble comes to town.
Fix Broken Access Controls on Your File Server - Many businesses have folders with confidential data residing on a file server with overly permissive access controls. Why take the risk of having a disgruntled – even former – employee access and misuse this data when access can be limited to only those in the company who need it?
Be Sure to Test Restores - It happens time and time again. Business owners think they have a data backup plan in place. Tapes are changed diligently each day and everything appears to be backed up and good to go. However, it turns out the backups haven’t been working for months, sometimes even years, right at the very moment they’re needed. Either the backups had become corrupt and useless or large segments of data were not being backed up. This happens often. Don’t let it happen to you.
Your website represents your business and so building and maintaining it need to be of primary concern to you as a business owner. We often find business owners struggling with their websites saying things like: “My website looks great, but I am not able to convert” or “I invested so much into creating my website, but I don’t get many hits.” These things are very common pains faced by businesses, especially small business. If you aren’t sure where to start your site improvement project, this post will get you rolling in the right direction with seven key areas you need to pay attention to when it comes to your website.
1. Content - Make sure your site has a significant amount of content and that the content is relevant and meaningful. Having the right amount of good content adds value and appeals to your target audience. Don’t fill the site with jargon and keywords just for the sake of it, lack of relevant content won’t help you improve your conversion rate.
2. Testimonials - Nothing has more impact on your prospects than them hearing about your product/service from their peers. So make sure your site showcases testimonials from your satisfied customers.
3. Social Media Icons - Social Media, when done correctly, it is a great medium to enhance your brand presence online. Get on popular social media networks and invite your website visitors to join you there – that way they will hear more about you from your fans at the social network.
4. Contact Information - Tell your web visitors how to get in touch with you. They shouldn’t have to search the entire site before knowing how to contact you. Provide your contact information/contact form very clearly for them to use.
5. Tracking - Incorporate a web-site tracker that helps you track the leads that come in from your website. You can use services such as Google Analytics that are free and provide you basic details such as number of hits, location, time spent on pages, etc.
6. Loading Time - Web visitors today have little patience and lots of choices. So, it is important that your site loads quickly, otherwise they move on to the next search result.
7. SEO - Search engine optimization is a key factor in determining the ROI of your website. Make sure your site is optimized for search engines so that it shows up when your prospects search for you.
Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) is one new approach being used by many companies like yours. Experienced MSPs have access to newer tools that reduce costs by automating many routine in-house labor intensive processes. Break-fix is labor intensive, and labor is one of the most expensive operating costs within your IT infrastructure. The new innovative tools that can be provided by MSPs generate real productivity increases and mitigate the risk of network failure, downtime and data loss from human error.
MSPs deliver a trusted foundation for your team and your customers. Some of the services and tasks offered include:
Remote Desktop Management and Support
Predictable Management of Critical Patches and Software Updates
Fractional Resource Availability of Best-In-Class Expertise – scaled to your needs
Implementing and Testing Backup and Disaster Recovery Processes
Performance of Inventory and Audits of Computer/Network/Software
Enforcement of Network/Security Policy
Monitoring of Network/Operating System and Alerts
Updating Anti-Virus Software and Detecting Spyware
Erase any misconception that managed service providers are nothing more than “outsourced” tech help priced to displace your in-house IT technician or team. The new MSP has defined new methodologies and technology partnerships to offer valuable preventative services that proactively locate and eliminate threats before a bigger problem arises.
MSPs today put considerable effort into understanding the operational and business needs of SMBs to develop and deliver a set of specific services that align technology with the SMB’s business objectives. This is the reason you hear managed services often referred to as “partners.” A present day MSP offers quantifiable economic value, greater ROI and decreased total cost of operation by streamlining costs and eliminating unnecessary lost productivity, revenue, and avoidable on-site IT consultant fees, in addition to eliminating the need for costly hardware/software repairs or replacement.