Carrollton Dermatology Associates
Dr. Thomas H. Lamb, MD.
Brighter Image, Inc.
RA-Lin and Associates
North Georgia Turf, Inc.
On November 8 the thirtieth typhoon of the 2013 typhoon season hit the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan is widely thought to be the most intense storm to make landfall in recorded history, leaving behind it flattened cities and over 4000 casualties. While disasters of this magnitude are statistically rare, companies should be taking steps to prepare their business for any disaster on any level. To many companies this means developing a business continuity plan, and technology can help ensure these plans are working.
Technology can help small to medium sized businesses develop and execute both disaster recovery and business continuity plans in many ways. Here are five:
With a multitude of chat apps like WhatsApp, Google Hangouts and iMessenger, companies can set up group chats that can be accessed via multiple devices from nearly anywhere. This means that you can get information out fast, with a higher chance of reaching the people you need to during and after a disaster.
Combine this with virtualized systems like email and VoIP, both of which are usually hosted off-site and are highly likely to remain optional during a disaster, and you further boost the chances and effectiveness of communication.
This is why there are numerous well-designed software options that allow businesses to not only develop, but track, implement and share recovery and continuity plans with greater effectiveness than manual systems.
What's more, is many of these solutions are created using industry standards and can often help you apply proven methods that may not have been previously possible.
When you need to recover data, you can usually log on to any computer with an Internet connection and have your files and data back in a fairly short amount of time. This means that your company can return to as near full operation status as quickly as possible without much loss of time and consequently, profit.
There are many ways technology can be employed in order to make planning for disasters and even recovering from them less challenging. If you are looking to learn more about how technology can help your business, get in touch.
Business is becoming increasingly complex, with the majority of systems and data now being stored online or on a computer. Because of this, a disaster such as one that knocks out power or even destroys your equipment could be devastating. Disasters put all business data at risk and that's why so many businesses take steps to protect their data. But there are still risks that they may miss.
If you are looking to protect your data, one of the best ways to do so is to be informed, and learn from the mistakes other companies make when they develop data protection or Business Continuity Plans.
1. Not backing up data It may seem like common sense when preparing for a disaster or developing a continuity plan that you should back up your data. However, a 2011 study from Semantic found that only half of businesses back up more than 60% of their data. Other businesses don't back up data or only back up certain systems. This means that if these businesses are faced with a disaster, they could lose up to 40% of their data. Some businesses could lose all of it.
Many experts suggest that businesses not only back up their data, but take more of an all-or-nothing approach. All data should be backed up so that should a disaster happen you can guarantee that nothing will be lost.
2. Failing to protect off site data Business is becoming increasingly spread out, with many employees working from outside of the office, or on their own systems. People who telecommute or use their own systems usually store important data on their local machines. When a company goes to protect or back up their data, some may forget to back up data on machines outside of the company premises.
What's more, some industries have regulations stating that you must back up data from all end-points (e.g., computers and devices) regardless of their location. So, when you are backing up data, be sure that you also back up data on systems that aren't in the office.
3. Not backing up data consistently The data in your business is always evolving and growing. Therefore, you need to ensure that it is backed up regularly. Because backups take time, there is a higher chance for them to fail. If you only back up once a year without checking, and disaster strikes, you could find that your data is incomplete, inaccessible or out of date. This may make any recovered data essentially useless.
The question is, how often should you back up your data? For most small businesses, a full backup at least once a week is suggested. If you work with client data on a regular basis or in a regulated industry, daily backups would likely be the best plan.
4. Using outdated backup methods Just because you back up your data doesn't mean it will always be available, especially if you use older backup methods such as data tapes or disks. These physical backups can be lost or even destroyed in a disaster and possibly even stolen. You may want to employ a more modern data backup solution that is more reliable, such as cloud backup.
That being said, you don't have to give up older methods as these can come in handy, especially if you are going to be operating without the Internet for an extended period of time. By employing more than one solution, you can cover all bases while ensuring that data is largely backed up and available.
If you are looking to learn more about how you can protect your data, please contact us today to see how our systems and solutions can help.
Disasters can happen at any time and be of any level of severity. For this reason, it is always advisable to implement a business continuity or disaster recovery plan. By having a plan, you stand a higher chance of surviving a disaster. However, if something negative does happen the key to remaining in operation is communication. This can be harder than it seems.
Here are five tips on how to ensure better communication during a disaster.
1. Have more than one way to communicate During a disaster, you have to assume that communications will be affected in some way. Therefore, you should take steps to ensure that your company has more than one way to communicate with employees and people outside of your organization.
This could include mobile phones that are used only for disasters, extra phone lines, VoIP, etc. The key here is to identify how potential disasters could affect communications and look for alternative methods or ways to communicate.
2. Coordinate responders During some disasters, it's not the communications themselves that cause further problems, but uncoordinated responders. In times of disaster, people react based on what they think will work best in the moment.
If you have not taken steps to ensure that all responders are on the same page, and know what they should be doing to not only carry out the recovery plan but also communicate, you could face a total breakdown.
When developing your strategy, take the time to ensure that the selected responders and communications leaders are up-to-date and are aware of what is expected of them and how they should go about communicating during a disaster. Cross-training employees so they can carry out other roles if necessary, can be a good back up too.
3. Coordinate responses During a disaster, you will have to communicate with parties outside of your business. This may be the media, shareholders or other businesses. If you have a disgruntled employee, or one who is not aware of the full situation when answering questions, the impact of the disaster could be exacerbated.
It is beneficial to develop standard responses and methods of responding during a disaster. As a small to medium business owner it is tempting to take on this role yourself. However, while you should definitely be a key person to respond to questions from parties outside of your business, having other people in place who can cover this role might help mitigate disaster.
4. Communicate outward In times of disaster it can be easy to forget that other people and businesses rely on you. If they are not fully aware of what is going on, there is a chance of compounding problems and even losing business.
When disaster strikes, your company should take steps to communicate with parties outside of your organization as to what is going on, what you are doing to fix the problem and if there is any help/changes you need. After all, the more people who are informed of the situation, the greater the chance that support will be available and more effective.
5. Be honest There is a temptation to put spin on a disaster within your organization and embellish the truth, or play it down so as to not make your business appear in a bad light. This could cause further problems though if important people find out that you have not been totally upfront and transparent.
All it would take is one employee mentioning a hidden fact to a friend and the truth could come out and potentially damage your brand reputation and possibly lose you business. Therefore, when communicating with outside parties and with your employees, be honest and open as to what is really going on. This will make communication easier, and could even help lessen the long-term impact of the disaster.
If you are looking for communications systems or disaster recovery plans that will help see you through any disaster, please contact us today to see how our solutions can support you.
For many countries, August through to October is severe weather season. From wildfires in the western US, to typhoons in Asia, many regions see a rise in disasters during these months. In an effort to increase awareness FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Association) has named September as National Preparedness Month. Are you prepared for a disaster that affects your business though?
When it comes to preparing for a disaster, especially a natural disaster, there are so many things you need to plan for and prep. Frankly, it can be overwhelming. We found that a good place to start is to prepare two aspects of your business: Your employees and your physical assets.
Tips for preparing your employees Many business owners view their employees as the most valuable assets. If a disaster strikes you will rely on them to not only execute any plans you have developed but to also help keep the business running. Unfortunately, if the disaster is big enough your employees will also be affected. With this in mind, you need to ensure that you prepare your staff as well as your business.
Here's four tips on how you can do that:
Disasters can strike at any time and in any form. They can be as small as a single computer, crashing with a day's worth of unsaved work, to as large as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 which took out towns and cities. Regardless of their size, it's certainly seems that disasters are happening with increasing frequency, and this highlights the need for a disaster recovery and preparedness plan. To capitalize on this, some companies have introduced DRaaS. Bud do you know what this is?
DRaaS stands for Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service, and is a cloud based service offered by an increasing number of tech companies. The concept is similar to other cloud based services like Software-as-a-Service, where the solution is delivered and managed by an IT partner.
DRaaS is a Disaster Recovery solution provided by a vendor that businesses can purchase. With most DRaaS solutions the vendor helps develop and implement a disaster recovery plan that fits the needs of the company that they will then manage to ensure that the systems are running properly.
When a disaster strikes, the vendor can work with you to help get your systems back online as fast as possible. Often this is quicker than other solutions, largely because the vendor's systems will likely not be affected by the disaster.
It is for this reason that many companies are becoming increasingly interested in this form of disaster recovery solution. Many smaller businesses also seem more open to it because it's a managed service. As these businesses likely don't have a disaster recovery specialist on staff, finding a solution that works and is affordable can be a challenge. Therefore, going with a managed service like this is a big draw.
What to look for when picking a DRaaS vendor If you are looking for a vendor to help you with your disaster recovery plans, or for a DRaaS solution, you should look for a solution that:
Business continuity is the process of establishing a plan that will ensure that business functions are still available to stakeholders during a time of disaster. It is best to think about it as an action that happens before disasters in effort to reduce or eliminate downtime if these occur. This has become increasingly important to many businesses. A common problem, however, is ensuring that your plan will work in reality.
Here are six tips to help ensure that your business continuity efforts will work.
1. Know your risks When creating a business continuity plan, or updating existing operations, it is a good idea to step back and as a group - with key staff - identify all possible risks to your organization. It's important to focus on risks both from within and outside the organization. No risk is too small, even if it and issue that could only affect one person or department.
You should also try to detail the consequences and what could happen should these defined risks come to fruition. This will give you a better idea of areas that need to be improved and potential problematic systems or positions. From here, you can also better develop a more solid plan that has a higher chance of succeeding.
2. Ensure your plan matches your business Because business continuity planning can be complex, many small businesses prefer to use ready made plans and templates. The problem with these is that they may not provide exactly what you need - most of these templates are fairly general. While we aren't saying you shouldn't use a template, and they can save time and money, you need to be sure that you either find a template that covers your business, or you adapt it to fit your business needs.
Pay close attention to where the plan fits in with your company, the scale of your company compared to the plan, available resources, where your work and how your employees work (remotely, onsite, both, etc.). If these differ from the template or current plan, you should take steps to modify or update your strategy to ensure it meets your needs.
3. Be sure that all staff buy in It is usually pretty easy to get the staff under your command to buy into a business continuity plan - after all, they may have helped modify or come up with the plan. What you have to ensure is that all upper management and stakeholders are not only aware of the plan, how it will work and when it is to be activated, but also support it.
One way to do this is to have a signoff sheet where all managers and key employees sign their names to ensure that they understand and support the plan. If you have holdouts, you should work with them to figure out what aspects of the plan they disagree with and work out if they have better or alternative solutions to bring to the table.
4. Keep your plan up to date A common mistake many businesses make is to develop a great continuity plan, but then not update it. Businesses and the climate around them are always changing. Having a plan that was workable five years ago will likely not meet your exact needs today.
To ensure that your business continuity plan is viable it is recommend that you update it on a yearly basis, or certainly when you undergo a big change in your business. Be sure to pay attention to whom has changed roles, any new systems introduced or retired and any changes to the core business
5. Communication is key Communication is a crucial part of any business. In order to have a continuity plan that actually works, you need to ensure that you communicate with all staff, and that they know not only their roles but who to report to and what to do if they are unable to reach the office, for example.
It is also be a good idea to communicate with those outside of the business who could be affected by a disaster that impacts your company. Generally, all parties involved should know and have access to the plan and be informed of updates or changes. Employees should also see how disasters might affect not only the company and their individual role in it, but people outside of the organization as well.
6. Practice Think of any professional athlete. They didn't get to where they are today by sitting around and not doing anything. They practiced their sport and took note of what needed to be improved upon, then went and worked on their game. The idea here is that you should practice implementing your plan on a regular basis. The timing depends on your business and propensity to danger. If you have defined a high amount of risk to your organization, it is a good idea to practice implementing the plan once every two to three months. Most organizations should be fine with twice a year.
After each practice, teams should get together for experience sharing to talk about what they noticed worked well and what needs to be improved on. Then changes can be implemented and the plan evolved.
If you are looking to integrate a business continuity plan in your business, or improve on an existing plan, contact us today to see how we can create a viable, workable solution that will minimize negative impact on your business.
In the Northern Hemisphere it is summer, and in many areas this means the beginning, or tail-end of the severe weather season. From flooding caused by winter snow melt to hurricanes and even tornadoes, every region in the world will eventually see some form of disaster. To limit the fallout from damage and the like, many companies adopt a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). The problem is, these plans sometimes fail.
Here are five common reasons Business Continuity efforts fail.
1. Inefficient communication When it comes to business, one of the most important keys to success is communication. The same can be said for Continuity plans - if the plan and actions expected aren't communicated effectively and understood by all parties involved, there is little to no chance that it will succeed.
To minimize this from happening, you should take steps to ensure that you clearly communicate, orally or through email, the plan with all parties involved. They should have on-demand access to it, and should be clear about what their role is and how they are expected to act. You should also take steps to ensure that departments and representatives are prepared and understand all aspects of the plan.
2. Lack of testing When it comes to anything related to IT, testing and retesting is essential. Many businesses take careful steps to implement a sound Continuity plan that covers the organization, but they fail to test it to see if it actually works. This could be a costly mistake.
It would therefore be a good idea to test your plan in a number of situations at least twice to three times a year. It would be a good idea to do spot tests that involve all parties so they can not only get experience but find potential holes and issues that need to be addressed.
3. Lack of a complete plan To be prepared, you must have a complete plan, that way you will be ready for almost anything. Numerous businesses have failed because they simply weren't prepared enough. Or their plan lacked crucial elements that would have prepared their business for an eventual disaster. Other examples of failure due to lack of complete plans is the fact that companies focused on their systems only, and forgot to plan for their employees' needs.
Planning can be tough. The best way to ensure that you are ready for disaster is to work with an IT partner who has experience in Continuity Planning. They will work with you to create a plan that your company can rely on.
4. Poor expectations When planning for Business Continuity, you need to think outside of the box. Many businesses have solid plans, but these plans are based on assumptions like: The power will remain on, Internet and landlines will remain connected, Mobile networks will work, staff will come into work, other parties involved won't be affected, etc. In smaller disasters, this could be the case, but in larger disasters you can bet that at least one of the above things will happen.
The best way to develop your expectations is to look at each scenario on its own, as you develop your plan. For example, how will you deal with Internet being down? Or, how will you operate with staff who can't make it into the office or backup location?
5. No updates to the plan Almost everyone knows that the world changes, often quickly. Yet, some businesses fail to acknowledge these changes and update their BCP accordingly. It would be a good idea to audit and update your plan on a regular basis, usually about once a year, to take into account any changes.
These changes could include new buildings next door, new equipment, new staff, etc. The key here is to ensure your plan is as up-to-date as possible.
If you are struggling with developing your Business Continuity Plan, or are thinking about adopting one, please contact us today to see how we can help your business be prepared for anything.
Disasters come in all shapes and sizes and for businesses they can range from massive catastrophes to less severe but still damaging ones, such as dropping an external hard drive that contains vital backups. Regardless of the what type of problem you are dealing with, it pays to be prepared beforehand. One way to do this is to have a backup solution in place. Many experts recommend you use an offsite backup strategy, but the question we often get is, "why"?
Here are five benefits and a definition of offsite backup.
Offsite backup defined The definition of offsite backup can be a bit difficult to nail down, as when many IT providers talk about this idea they are usually referring to one of a number of different kinds of backup. The key idea revolving around offsite backup is that your company's data and backups are sent out of your physical location(s). In other words, your backups are not stored in your office or building.
Offsite backup is usually done in one of two ways:
Benefits of remote backup
1. It's more reliable The major benefit of remote backup is that it can be automated. Your files are updated on a daily basis, or you can set the time for the update. Because these solutions work over the Internet, you will be able to recover files quickly. Beyond that, the servers that offer this solution are often located in numerous locations, which ensures that your backups are always available, even if one server crashes.
2. It reduces workload Traditional backup solutions require a person, whether you or an IT professional, to manually back up or copy files. This can take a long time, and will take you away from your normal job. Many remote backup solutions can be initiated at the click of a mouse after setup, or can be scheduled for when you aren't in the office.
3. It's easy to set up Backup solutions are managed by an IT partner who can work with you to set up which files and data to back up. Other solutions can be set up with a few clicks and even automated, so you can rest assured that your data is backed up and up-to-date.
4. It's secure Most backup providers store their servers in secure locations, meaning that your data is physically secure. To ensure that backup data is transmitted securely, most solutions use advanced encryption tools to keep data secure.
5. It will save money If you have numerous computers with large amounts of data that you back up regularly, you know that physical storage solutions can be costly. The majority of remote backup solutions are billed on a monthly-basis and support a near unlimited amount of backup space. If your company operates in an industry where backups are mandatory, or you have a large amount of files to back up, these options will save you money.
If you are interested in learning more about how offsite, remote backup can help ensure that your business is ready for disaster recovery, please contact us today.
Pause for a minute and ask yourself if your business is prepared for a disaster. Chances are you have some plan for a large scale disaster like hurricanes, earthquakes and fire, but what about other disasters like hackers or human error? The truth is, many businesses with a disaster recovery plan often forget to ensure they cover all potential disasters.
Here are five tips to help ensure that your business is fully ready for the next disaster.
1. Backup everything While it can be tempting to only backup the most important data and programs, it can be a chore to identify what is deemed to be important. Who knows, a file that is non-essential today may become essential in the future. If it is lost due to a disaster, this could prove to be a problem.
It would be a good idea to look for a backup solution that covers all data and programs. But, having a full backup solution isn't enough, you also need to ensure that recovery is easy and can be implemented quickly.
2. Look into tiered recovery Establishing a tiered recovery method means identifying the value and importance of existing systems and utilizing a recovery method that meets needs. It would be a good idea to identify mission critical systems and adopt a recovery method that can have these systems up and running as quickly as possible. From there you can tier different systems and match a recovery method. For example, archived files are likely not needed right away, so they can be recovered at a later date, using a slower recovery method.
3. Keep copies of all keys and licenses With the amount of software and programs businesses use on a daily basis growing, it would be a good idea to keep copies of the activation keys (the string of digits and letters you enter to activate the full version of software) and purchased licenses.
While many of these are now distributed electronically through email, there are still software developers that distribute keys by mail or with the physical install CDs. If you lose the codes in a fire, you will be out of luck and have to purchase the software again. This is an extra charge you likely don't want.
4. Pick the right recovery locations The best recovery plans offer numerous backup solutions which are hosted in different locations. A good provider knows this and will utilize data storage centers as far apart as possible. If you choose to backup your own data, it would not be a good idea to keep the backups in the office.
Similarly, if you are preparing for a big disaster, you likely have physical locations that you can move to if your main business location is damaged or destroyed. Optimal plans will have more than one location identified, and have them as far apart as possible. This will minimize the chances of losing full operations and increase your business's ability to bounce back quicker.
5. Match your recovery plan to your business There are so many different backup and recovery options that it can be tough to pick one. The best course of action is to look at your systems and how they work. If you operate strictly offline, a cloud based backup solution likely isn't your best bet. Or, if you operate fully in the cloud, a physical tape or hard disk backup may not be optimal.
If you are looking to beef up, or establish a disaster recovery plan, try working with an IT partner like us, who can help you find the optimal solution that can meet your needs and budget.
Disasters come in all shapes and sizes, from losing a day's worth of data to floods or fires that can harm whole cities. Because they are so unpredictable in nature, it can often be hard to prepare your business for the inevitable. However, businesses aren't at a total loss if they have Business Continuity Plans that can help them through any disaster.
Some companies are hesitant to adopt a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) because of the perceived costs and complexity involved. We won't deny that plans are usually on the complex side, but there are good reasons as to why your company should adopt one. Here's five.
1. Your business will be seen as more valuable Banks, venture capitalists and other investors tend to air on the side of caution, and as such will usually look to businesses that appear to be stable as more viable investment vehicles. Companies with a BCP are often seen to be more valuable, as they can address diverse situations better than those without. As a result, they will make the investor more money over time.
2. Compliance Big companies in a number of industries have had continuity plans for years and many have started to look for suppliers/vendors with continuity plans. Beyond that, some industries and government bodies have made BCP a requirement. If you are a vendor, supplier or even in specific industries, it is a good idea to have one in order for business to run smoothly.
3. Potentially lower insurance premiums Operating a business is filled with risks, and business managers are often looking for ways to minimize it. One way includes the purchase of insurance - many industries and situations require you to carry it. Generally, insurance providers will give more favorable rates to companies that take steps to minimize risk. A solid BCP will go a long way in showcasing how risk-averse your company is, which could lead to lower rates or at the very least, stable rates.
4. More efficient communication Developing a BCP involves constant, company-wide communication in order for it to be successful. For many businesses, this involves collaboration between team members who don't normally work together on a regular basis.
A BCP also fosters communication plans during disasters, both within the organization - most employees have a role, and will need to work together to pull through - and outside - customers, suppliers and other stakeholders will be contacting you. If your employees know how to communicate what needs to be done, effects of the disaster will be minimized.
5. Survival Recent natural disasters around the globe have highlighted that businesses without a plan will most likely be forced out of business. Having a BCP will minimize the chances of this, while preparing your business for survival.
If you are looking to implement a business continuity plan, or improve on an already existing one, please contact us today. We may have a solution for you.