5 Things to Consider When Planning Your Data Backup Process

Your organization's value depends on its data. A catastrophic loss of data will cripple your company, often beyond the point of recovery. For this reason, data backup plans are essential, even for startups. Save time and money by doing it right from the start instead of waiting until after the disaster. Every company needs to have their own plan that considers not only speed of recovery, but redundancy for business continuity. Many backup plans include local recovery and remote offsite options. 

Here are five things to consider when planning your data backup process.

1. Choose the Right Medium

You can store data almost anywhere, especially when you don't have much to back up. However, the storage medium you choose determines how quickly you can go from a server crash, and lost data, to being productive again. The best storage medium allows you to store large amounts of data, but also makes recovery quick.

For instance, DVDs may be convenient and inexpensive, but they'll prove to be rather difficult to manage once you have terabytes of storage to maintain. Hard drives might make sense in such a situation, especially if you are looking for redundancy in your backup solution.  Cloud backup offers an offsite option and is important part of the planning. 

What is best really comes down to your own specific needs.

2. Test Your Backups

How do you know your backups aren't corrupted? One common unforeseen failure in data backup plans is corrupted files, found only once a catastrophic failure has occurred. You simply don't know the integrity of your backups unless you test them.

The frequency of when you test your backups ultimately depends on the value of your specific data. It is recommended that you periodically check to make sure that your backups work as expected and restore properly. This process will not only ensure the integrity of your backups, but also provides a regular check that the backups are occurring at the specified interval.

3. Schedule Your Backups During Off-Peak Hours

Scheduling large amounts of data transfers across your network can create all kinds of problems. First, moving terabytes of data can take hours and it will eat up your bandwidth. Backups performed during the day will affect users' productivity. They can even create issues with dropped virtual meetings, phone calls (VoIP) or data transfers. Instead of interrupting users, schedule your backups at night.

To perform scheduled backups, you'll need good software. The software must be able to identify when resources weren't properly backed up and alert you to any issues. It also must be reliable enough to back up your data regularly without interruptions.

4. Audit Your Data

Backups are easy when you have one server. But, what happens when your company expands and you have several servers and workstations to maintain? You can easily forget to include important data in your backup process. The only way to ensure that you back up all your important data is to perform an audit.

Your audit should include all the servers within your network. First, you must know where users back up data. These file servers hold important user documents. Second, you always need to back up database servers. These servers contain critical company data. Finally, any application servers must have backups. Application servers can usually have more infrequent backups since they do not change often.

5. Prioritize Security

The last thing to consider is security, but it's probably one of the most important. You can't back up all your data and leave it in a random location. Poorly secured backups leave not only a few documents open to hackers, but tons of data. Backups are frequently forgotten when securing your network, but you should have high standards for their security.

Don't skimp on your company's most prized possession. Data is your company's most critical asset. Contact us for a quick check-up on your existing data backup process to make sure you've taken everything into account.  Every company has different needs, contact us and learn how Ease Technologies can help your business with important data backup planning and implementation.  Call us today at (301) 854-0010.

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Steps before upgrading your device to iOS 8

Apple has just release the latest operating system (OS) upgrade for iPhones and iPads.  Like all software updates, iOS 8 offers many new compelling features and improved security for your mobile devices.  I encourage taking a little time before rushing into a new major operating system update.  Often there are a few incompatibles and technical issues that are only uncovered after the final release to the public.  When it is time to upgrade your iOS device, there are a few steps to take before you get started.

cloud servicesCan you upgrade your device?
Apple has identified the following devices as upgradable to iOS 8:
• iPhones 4s, 5 and 5s
• iPad 2, 3, 4, Air, Mini 
• iPod 5 Gen

Do you have enough room?
It is a good time to look over your device to see if you have enough space and clean up some space.
Check under Settings>General>Usage to uncover how much storage space is being used up.  Anything less than about 1 GB it is time to remove some older items.  A full list of apps and storage demands by those apps are listed as well.  If you are no longer playing Candy Crush you can delete it here.

Clean up media
You may be low or storage space or just in need to clear out some old photos and videos. After a year of birthday parties and vacations there will be plenty of videos and photos that you no longer may need.  Save the good ones, but no need to keep everything.  You can use Dropbox as a way to regularly store those photos and then permanently delete that media off your iPhone.

Update Your Apps
I always update my current applications before upgrading the OS. Most all App developers update their applications with a major OS update and you will likely need that update in combination with the OS upgrade.  It can take some time to update 15-30 or more apps on your device.  Get it done ahead of time.

Backup everything in iTunes
A nonnegotiable is backing up your device before you start the upgrade to iOS 8.  Any number of things can go wrong and having a fall back option is critical. I like to do the backup in iTunes with the Encrypted iPhone backup option.  That way all the passwords I have installed on that device are backed up in the process.  This is also the process I would take before transferring my iPhone 5 to a new iPhone 6 for example, too.

Finally, make sure your device is fully charged and you can start your upgrade. 

Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 and learn how Managed IT Services can help secure your business and reduce your IT costs in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
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Why Should a Law Firm Move to the Cloud?

After Tropical Storm Sandy, many law firms found out the hard way that uninterrupted access to company data is a critical part of any business plan. Many practices are now exploring how a cloud-based office can reduce costs, improve on their disaster recovery plans and raise productivity.

Reduce and manage costs
Ease Cloud WorkspaceMany small and medium sized law firms have maintained an in-house IT environment.  This has involved the procurement of costly servers, computers, software and the support to maintain these complex systems. 

Cloud services can reduce operational costs and cut capital expenditures by eliminating more on-site IT equipment.  A cloud provider can even roll up servers and desktop systems to provide a complete virtual office in the cloud.  IT costs can then turn into a predictable monthly fixed fee model for the firm’s budget. This plan can also extend the life of your current workstation and laptop investments with less frequent hardware upgrades.

Work from anywhere
Having the ability to work from about anywhere is a critical aspect for any attorney.  This means more than just being able to read emails and communicate with clients while on the road.  Attorneys need to work on case information securely from any device. With Internet access, cloud based desktop systems can connect from any PC, laptop or tablet no matter the operating system.

Information security is imperative for all businesses and critical for law firms. Trying to equip and keep users up to date on all security procedures can be a daunting task. A cloud desktop can be encrypted connection from point to point across the Internet. Even if that device is lost, damaged or stolen the only way to get to that cloud connection again is through a new secure authentication.  Look for solutions that have industry security standards like SAEE-16 or ISO 27001 for the best protection.

Management and scalability
A cloud based virtual office can provide a much easier way to scale resources for the firm.  It is much more convenient to turn on and off services for employees with cloud services.  There is one single point of administration that can provide reports on use management for compliance. This secure scaling of devices can now be offered for work from home and BYOD.

Backup and disaster recovery
The most important part of any disaster recovery plan starts with a well-implemented back-up strategy.  Hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes are unpredictable devastating events for any business. Knowing that your firms and clients data is secured out-side your office provides the best level of protection against these disasters. A cloud service stores this data remotely and the best services keep redundant backups across multiple sites in the country. This level of protection is out of reach for most firms with only in-house support.

Many firms are recognizing the value of cloud services.  To learn more about how cloud services can cut costs and improve your firm’s security check out the benefits of our Ease Cloud Workspace™ or call us today at (301) 854-0010.

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How To Create A Cloud Policy For Your Small Business

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As you begin to move your company away from a physical infrastructure and into the cloud, it's important to make sure that proper security policies are in place. While you may have a general information security policy, don't think that absolves your organization from the need for a specific cloud security policy. The dangers that come along with using cloud software or infrastructure are markedly different than those of the typical security concerns encountered by most organizations.

The biggest risk for most cloud applications is a breach of the cloud provider's security. There is no real way to create a policy averting this risk, so the ideal solution is to look at things from the perspective of risk management—all cloud providers need to be evaluated for risk, based on their history, the architecture they use, stated security measures in place, and the value or risk of data being stored on that cloud platform.

The second biggest risk for organizations is employee negligence and inappropriate cloud usage. Curbing this risk requires several steps. First is identifying a point person in your organization, usually the IT manager, who will evaluate cloud services and approve or deny requests to use certain cloud providers. Next, employees need to be informed that they are not to use cloud services unless they have been vetted and approved by the point person. Finally, organizational data needs to be stratified by level of security it requires, so that cloud services can be evaluated for certain levels of security. For example, while one service may be perfectly fine to temporarily store or transport low–security information, it might not be secure enough for high–security information. Employees must be made aware that using cloud services is a major risk, and not to be done without authorization.

All cloud policies should integrate a worst–case–scenario plan. This can include plenty of redundant backups in case the cloud service storing your data goes down. It should also include a communication plan to inform your clients and customers in the event of a security breach at your cloud service provider.

Cloud services can offer your business a lot of flexibility and significant savings, but unless they are approached in a methodical and cautious manner, they can result in significant risk. A good cloud service policy is the biggest step towards minimizing this risk.

To learn more about how cloud services can cut costs and improve you company security check out the benefits of our Ease Cloud Workspace™ or call us today at (301) 854-0010.

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Which OS Should Your Company Consider In A Post-Windows XP World?

Windows 8On April 8th of 2014, Windows XP will officially reach its end of life as per the Microsoft Windows lifecycle factsheet. At that point, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP with patches, bug fixes, security updates, or any kind of technical assistance except for those customers paying for extended support. With extended support prices easily exceeding half a million for many companies, upgrading is the most practical and recommended option. Which leaves the question-in a post-Windows XP world, what operating system should you upgrade to?

Windows 8/8.1
The most logical solution is to upgrade to the newest and brightest offering from Microsoft. Windows 8/8.1 is seen by many as being a pretty far departure from Windows XP. The operating system has almost been completely torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, leading to an experience that can take a little getting used to. The single most noticeable change is the overlay of Metro, Microsoft's controversial new interface, on top of the Windows that organizations are used to. This change, along with some other minor tweaks and updates (such as removal of the "start" button), has led critics to be skeptical of the system.
Still, while the changes might take a little getting used to, Windows 8/8.1 has the distinct advantage of still being Windows. That means most of your software should continue to run post-upgrade, files will still open, your network configuration should be just fine, and peripheral devices should function just like they always did. And since the end of life for Windows 8 isn't until January 10, 2023, your staff will have plenty of time to get used to the particulars of the operating system before it's time to upgrade again.

One caveat to running out and switching to Windows 8 immediately is the relative newness of the operating system. It hasn't been thoroughly put through its paces yet in the business environment, and it's difficult to say whether all the bugs have been worked out or not. Some people have reported issues with drivers, hardware, and older software, making Windows 8 and 8.1 a little bit more of a gamble if it's not rigorously tested and evaluated to work in your environment ahead of time.

Windows 7
For organizations wanting to stay within the Windows family, but not willing to push the envelope with the latest and greatest version, Windows 7 presents a great compromise. While Microsoft will be discontinuing support for the product a full three years earlier than for Windows 8, it will still remain a viable business operating system until January 14, 2020.
Windows 7 is much less of a sea-change than Windows 8 in terms of how the operating system actually functions and the way your employees interact with their computers. Compatibility between Windows XP and Windows 7 is top notch, so the majority of your software should have no problems working. Because most of the changes in Windows 7 from Windows XP are transparent, most of your employees should be able to adjust to the new operating system with little difficulty and little need for training, making it an almost plug-and-play solution.

Because Windows 7 has been around for several years now, and deployed in many challenging corporate environments, it has been thoroughly tested and is a solid, safe choice for upgrade. The only major reason to pass on a Windows 7 upgrade would be the improved performance of Windows 8 and the fact that the lifecycle for Windows 7 ends in only six years, meaning you will likely have to begin preparing for the next upgrade in four or five years.

If your company has been toying with the idea of giving up on Windows altogether, the end of life period for Windows XP is a great to evaluate the Apple platform. While OS X, and Apple computers in general, are very similar to their PC counterparts these days, you will still face many challenges. Of all upgrade options, this is the most expensive as it requires purchasing completely new hardware and software. Still, if you've contemplated switching over to Apple, using your Windows transition budget to soak up some of the cost is a great way to offset the added expense.  There are some real advantages to Apple eco system. Apple offers a solid mobile platform with IOS and desktop experience that work very well together.  While not for every business something to consider.

You can learn more about this issue for your business by reading our End Of Windows XP White Paper here. Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 to learn how Windows and Apple OS solutions can help improve your business in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
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