Continuity is defined as uninterrupted duration or continuation. Business Continuity is when regular operation continues uninterrupted by changes such as employees leaving or, as it relates to the technology you depend on, minimal downtime in a disaster. A Business Continuity plan is a plan of action detailing how your business will not only recover from a disaster like loss of data, but how it will continue operations during a disaster like the storms that tore through the eastern United States in July causing extended power outages and damaging buildings.
Every business should have some sort of Continuity Plan in place for when disaster strikes. Backups are not enough. Ask yourself the following questions: Does your business rely on technology? How long can your business systems operate without power? How much work can be done if the Internet connection is down? If a fire destroyed your building taking all of your computers, servers, and data with it how long would it take your business to become functional again? What can be done to manage these risks to your business?
Asking the questions and answering them is only the first step. As stated before, a Business Continuity Plan is a plan of action, and action must be taken to manage these risks to your business. Regularly performing tasks like backing up your data, testing backups, adding redundancy to your systems like a backup internet connection or a generator, testing to make sure redundant systems kick in when needed are all part of what makes a successful Business Continuity Plan. I hope you are beginning to see a pattern emerge. Ask questions, put a plan into action, test the plan, and repeat.
Regular testing and review are extremely important to ensuring that the steps you have taken to protect your business are there when you need them. An annual test might consist of turning on your generator to make sure it runs or pulling the plug on your internet modem to make sure the backup takes over, allowing access to the internet. Your annual review should not only ask are the measures that are in place today working properly, but what other measures can be taken in the event of a disaster. An example might be that in your first review you realize that you don’t have any measures in place if the entire building where lost to a natural disaster. A new measure such as implementing a cloud service to allow employees to access applications and data from home or a temporary location should be put into action and become part of your annual test and review.
Disaster recovery and business continuity go hand-in-hand. Disaster recovery using backups is not enough. By implementing a solid Business Continuity plan, testing it, and reviewing it you may just be able to weather the next disaster better than your competitors and come out on top.
On September 21st, Apple stores were filled with eager customers. The latest iPhone had hit the shelves. Over the last several months, rumors about what the next iPhone would be flew. Would it redefine the smartphone once again? Speculations ran from the outlandish to the mundane. Now that it is here, there are a few things you should know before you rush out and buy this shiny sleek glass and aluminum work of art for your pocket.
Apple changed the connector – meet Lightning! The standard connector found on almost every Apple device is now Apple’s new smaller Lightning connector on the iPhone 5. Now before you start throwing out all of your iHome speakers and other “i” compatible gadgets, Apple has for sale a Lightning to 30-pin adapter to help ease the transition for $29. While this change is not the end of the world it is, in my opinion, the most significant change to the phone that will affect consumers. The other change and more immediately noticeable one is the size. Our little iPhone had a growth spurt. It is almost 5 inches tall. To help you visualize the difference, this new size translates to the equivalent of one more row of apps on the home screen.
Other changes are the inclusion of support of faster 4G wireless service from AT&T and Verizon, as well as enhanced Wi-Fi. The camera’s both front and rear can now record in HD (the front recording in 720p and the rear in 1080p). The new A6 processor doubles speeds, while providing some improved battery life. Eight hours of talk time or eight hours browsing the Internet or a huge ten hours of video playback. The iPhone 5 even comes loaded with the latest IOS 6 installed, giving access to Siri enhancements and updates for many of the built- in apps, like turn-by-turn directions for Maps. The new iOS also has Facebook integration built in, much like the integration of Twitter in previous versions. You can now “like” anything, from anywhere on the phone (mostly).
While all of these new features and upgrades are great, they don’t redefine the market as we have come to expect from Apple in recent years. Unless there is a major breakthrough in the world of science, the time of redefining the smartphone market is over. Now you just have to pick the phone with the features you want.
My recommendation for the iPhone 5 is this: if your contract is up and you are an “Apple” already, get one. If not, just wait it out until your contract is up or until something you like better comes along. There just aren’t any “must-have” super features in this new device. As a matter of fact, now is a good time to test out the waters with a different device or get your first iPhone. I think it will be a while before Apple changes the adapter on these devices again, but the hassle of using an adapter for all of your accessories might just be the push you need to try a Windows Mobile or Android-based phone.
Chances are that the last thought on your mind as you make your way to the office, is the question, “Are my computer systems secure?” Small and medium-sized business owners and their staff generally have far more pressing and immediate concerns demanding their attention. However, if your computer system is not secure, this issue can quickly turn into the most pressing matter. Gone are the days when simply updating your antivirus was considered “good enough.” Computer hackers are more sophisticated, and perhaps most alarming is their increasing focus on smaller businesses. In July, Symantec reported that the number of attacks targeted at small and medium-sized organizations had doubled over the previous six months to equal roughly one-third of all targeted attacks daily (http://bit.ly/MW0pNf).
So what can you do to ensure that your computers are not as vulnerable to those attacks? The answer is . . . nothing. There is absolutely nothing you can do to guarantee your systems will not be attacked, but you can reduce the risk greatly by actively making sure your systems are secured, using the right tools and the best practices.
Here are a few basic steps to help keep your computers safe:
- Make sure that all of your software is up-to-date, not just Windows updates. Get in the habit of pressing the update button often to make sure that you have the latest updates installed. In addition, check often for updates.
- Make certain that you have antivirus and that it is up-to-date, as well.
- Use a firewall on your computer. Most antivirus packages have one, but if your system does not, make sure that the Windows firewall is turned on.
- Use strong passwords to log on to your computers.
- Make sure your network has a correctly configured firewall and that the server is secured.
The last and most important measure when securing your computers and servers is to review all the measures taken on a regular basis to make sure that they have been implemented and continue to be the best prescribed methods for securing your systems.
Remember: Any program on your machine can have a security flaw just waiting to be exploited.
While the task of ensuring that your computer systems are safe may seem a bit daunting, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Having someone on staff with the skills and knowledge to manage IT security or working with a consultant or vendor to help you become more aware of the importance of actively engaging in computer security measures will in turn provide a level of confidence for all businesses and their employees.
Today it seems the Cloud is where it’s at: Microsoft, Google, Amazon and a host of other companies provide Cloud storage solutions, but are they just for consumers or should businesses be moving documents and data into the Cloud? In most cases, the answer is yes, especially for smaller businesses. Small businesses can benefit greatly from using low cost cloud storage for their documents and files.
For smaller businesses, maintaining a file server and properly monitoring and maintaining backups can be a major pain point. Moving to the cloud can help relieve the burden by providing your business with a secure location to store documents that has the added benefit of enterprise level backup and maintenance. For example, Google Drive has plans starting at $2.49/month for 25GB of storage. You get the power of Google’s always-up network and the flexibility of the Cloud, allowing you to work from anywhere.
So what’s the catch? Well the only real catch is learning to think a little differently about how you save and share your documents. Most cloud storage providers provide apps that sync a folder on your local machine with the Cloud, making this transition a little easier. With services like Dropbox, folders shared with you from other people also show up in your synced folder. On the other side of that coin, Microsoft SkyDrive relies more on an Internet-based interface to allow access to documents shared with you. The real treat is being able to save files opened in Word and other Office applications directly back to the Cloud when using a service like SkyDrive.
All of the services I have mentioned so far work well for small numbers of people, but what if your organization is larger and you need to be able to have better control over multiple users and security settings? Take a look at what Office365 from Microsoft has to offer (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/compare-plans.aspx). For as low as $6/user per month you can get full featured control over access to file sharing and storage using team sites from SharePoint Server. In addition to that, you also get hosted enterprise email using Microsoft Exchange Server, shared calendars, email antivirus, enterprise instant messaging, and video conferencing.
The Cloud is where it’s at; it’s where everything is. Almost everything your business needs can be migrated to the Cloud. Even many applications like QuickBooks, Word, and Excel can now operate entirely in the Cloud with no software to install on your local machine. In today’s Cloud-centric, application-driven world, flexibility and mobility are king, and all you need is an internet connection.