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Posts Tagged ‘Disaster recovery’


79% of Businesses Were Hacked in 2016. Was Yours One of Them?

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

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Getting caught off-guard in a cyber security attack is a disaster for any business, large or small—and the frequency of attacks is only getting worse.

According to the CyberEdge 2017 Cyberthreat Defense Report, hackers successfully compromised security at least once for 79.2 percent of businesses over the last 12 months.

These figures may be alarming, but keep in mind that all businesses can (and should) be taking proactive steps to prevent attacks, and to make a quick recovery from any breaches. Here’s how you can protect yourself, with help from a Managed Service Provider.

Increase in data breaches

Even if your business has not been attacked in the past year, the odds of staying under the radar aren’t in your favor. In 2016, businesses experienced a 40 percent increase in data breaches over 2015. The situation is especially bad for smaller businesses: 60 percent of small companies that suffer a major cyber attack go under within six months.

Less severe incidents are more common, but businesses are typically ill-prepared for them. A staggering 63 percent of small business owners report their websites have come under attack by hackers or spammers; of those attacked, 79 percent say they have no plan for what to do if it happens again. Most businesses find that mobile devices and social media services are the weakest links in their online security.

Protective Measures against Cyber Attack

The best protective measures against digital security threats are to secure networks, websites, applications, and social media platforms, and to implement a reliable backup system. The following tips provide a baseline to help your business minimize its security risks:

  • Use unique, secure passwords for all accounts including internal services, external services, email, and connected social media to prevent data breaches.
  • Activate “2-Step Verification” for applicable services.
  • Use Secure HTTP for websites and applications that pass personal information.
  • Take advantage of desktop management services; make sure computers are running up-to-date software to minimize exposure to known security holes.
  • Keep antivirus and anti-malware software updated; run scans on a frequent basis to protect from malware infections.
  • Program internally developed services to prevent SQL injection.
  • Secure the Wi-Fi/Internet and manage employee credentials.
  • Secure mobile devices, tablets, and laptops so they can be disabled if lost or stolen.

In Case of Emergency: Disaster Recovery

Ransomware is major concern for businesses these days: 61 percent of businesses say they were compromised at least once by malware demanding payment to return data. Unfortunately, some companies that decide to pay the ransom still don’t get their data back. The best thing your company can do to protect itself from ransomware is to limit the amount of damage an attack can do through backup and disaster recovery. Using the “3-2-1 backup rule” and running frequent backups can be the difference between losing all of your data permanently, and losing a single day’s work.

Digital security should never take a break. If your business is looking to build a better defense against cyber threats, the experts at MPA Networks can help with both desktop and server management. Contact us today to learn more.

The Three Copies Rule: Why You Need Two Backups

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

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Anyone who has ever lost years of work due to computer failure will tell you that backing up your devices can save you considerable heartache and frustration. Reliable, redundant, and regular data backups are your business’s best strategy for disaster recovery—but two copies of your data may not be enough.

IT pros across the world have developed the “3-2-1” backup philosophy to maximize your restoration capacity following a data disaster.

The “3-2-1” Concept

The “3-2-1” approach is simple:

  1. Store three copies of your data.
  2. Utilize multiple storage formats.
  3. Keep one copy off-location.

TrendLabs says that having two backups of your data (meaning three copies total) is all about redundancy. IT professionals have nightmares about experiencing computer or server failure and preparing to restore the backup, only to find that the backup has failed as well. Your business can prevent this situation only by keeping two backup copies of all your important data.

We can’t stress often enough that three copies means three separate devices. Backing up data to a second hard drive in the same computer, or a connected SD card, does not count. This will only protect your data in the event that one of the hard drives breaks.

Some useful backup devices include:

  • External hard drives
  • NAS
  • Cloud storage
  • DVD/Blu-Ray discs
  • Flash drives
  • SD cards

Two Formats: Diversify Storage Media

Using different types of storage for backup improves reliability: It not only diversifies the factors that could cause the backup to fail, but also acts as an extra layer of protection. For example, if both backups are on external hard drives and exposed to a large magnet, both would be destroyed. However, a second copy stored on optical media or a flash drive would survive.

The two backup locations could include a backup external hard drive and cloud storage, or a DVD archive and an onsite NAS server. According to PC & Tech Authority, NAS servers are a great backup option for offices with several networked computers. We’ve discussed storage format longevity in previous blog posts if you need help deciding which one is right for you.

Keep at Least One Copy Offsite for “Catastrophe Recovery”

Catastrophe recovery is another way to describe a worst-case disaster recovery scenario: for instance, the hard drive didn’t fail, but a flood leveled your office, or someone stole both the computer and the backup in a burglary. In order to prevent an outright catastrophe, it’s not safe to keep every copy of your important data under the same roof.

This means, of course, that one of your backup copies should be stored in a secondary locationthe farther the better. The offsite backup could be, for example, a cloud backup, or an external hard drive stored in a bank deposit box. When working with a non-cloud, off-site solution, it helps to swap out two storage devices on a weekly basis.

If your company is looking to streamline its disaster recovery practices with IT Managed Services, contact the experts at MPA Networks today.

The Dock Returns: Anticipating Trends for Productivity Potential

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

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Samsung’s March 2017 announcement that its flagship smartphone would support first-party peripheral that makes the device work like a desktop computer could mean big changes for how people look at their productivity devices.

While this is not the first attempt to treat a smartphone as a computer substitute, it is the first time a market shipment leader put its weight behind the concept.

Business and IT professionals should watch these trends closely, because new ways of looking at existing technological mainstays may offer incredible opportunities to increase productivity.

A Note on Convergence

Samsung’s dock is another indication that the smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop device classes are gravitating towards convergence. Tablets and smartphones overlap each other in use and functionality: In many cases, you would not be able to tell the difference between a large smartphone and a small tablet outside of the ability to make phone calls.

Galaxy S8 Dex Dock

The Samsung Dex allows any Galaxy S8 user to connect the device to a charging dock that augments the smartphone with a desktop monitor over HDMI and USB peripherals. When connected to the dock, the Galaxy S8 display switches to a more computer-esque interface, making the phone function like a “fake desktop.” This is excellent for business continuity for three reasons:

  1. Employees can take a highly portable device with them anywhere they go, which can be plugged into a dock when available to function as a primary productivity device. It’s easier to carry a phone around than a laptop.
  2. Employees will no longer need to use a dedicated workstation. This means employees can easily relocate their main device.
  3. Sharing a desk workstation will be much simpler. Instead of requiring a centralized server and individual login credentials, employees can simply plug in their mobile device.

Similar third-party devices exist for laptop augmentation, such as the Mirabook, which works for both Android and Windows 10 devices. If these docks add support for multiple devices including multiple operating systems, this platform could be incredibly useful for businesses.

The Motorola Atrix Legacy

Businesses have been working on expanding smartphone capabilities to emulate what a traditional computer can do almost as long as the smartphone and tablet device classes have been popular. The Motorola Atrix, released in late 2011, is the first well-known example of turning a smartphone into a netbook. However, earlier takes on the convergence concept didn’t perform well because of high costs ($300-$500 for the Atrix compared to $150 for the Dex) and missing functionality.

Nintendo Switch Dock

The Nintendo Switch, released in March 2017, is a tablet-like device that connects to a dock to work like a traditional console on a TV. With the system selling well, the Switch will serve as the first tablet-like device millions of people have in their homes that works with a dock. “Living room infiltration” can make the public more comfortable with the dock concept, which could lead more people to try docks with other devices. The Nintendo Switch could do for docks what the Playstation 2 did for DVD video.

Even without the dock, the tablet and smartphone industry is pushing towards convergence. For example, Apple is selling the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement device with reasonable success. However, backup and disaster recovery will be more important than ever with docks—mostly because smartphones are easier to break and to lose than desktop computers.

Our IT consulting experts at MPA Networks are ready to help your business look into technology opportunities like the Dex dock. Contact us today.

Avoiding Disaster: Overheating Computers

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

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If one of your office computers always seems to shut down or slow to a crawl at the busiest of times, you may have a case of overheating on your hands—especially if IT can’t find anything wrong on the software level. Performance hiccups might seem like a mere nuisance, but overheating shortens the lifespan of a computerModern computers are designed to protect themselves from dangerous temperatures, but they can’t prevent all long-term damage.

You can increase productivity and avoid disaster recovery situations in your workplace by making sure your computers are operating at safe temperatures.

The Symptoms

An overheating computer will exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

How to View Temperatures

The easiest way to tell if a computer is overheating is to take its temperature via software. Your staff can install monitoring programs like CPUID’s HWMonitor or Almico’s SpeedFan for Windows devices, or enable CPU temp viewing on a Mac to get active temperature readings.

These programs show current operating temps and indicate overheating with red colored text, a fire icon, or a warning. Have employees keep an eye on the monitor program during normal work: If the test identifies a heating problem, it’s time to resolve the cause.

Ambient Temperature

Ambient temperatures, or the temperature of the room the computer is in, boost the base temperature of computers and cause parts to run hotter than usual. These problems could simply be the result of the room lacking climate control, or other nearby devices blowing hot air in the direction of the computer.

This is one of the reasons that server rooms feature extra cooling. Either reduce the environmental temperature, or move the computer to a cooler area.

Insufficient Fan Cooling or Blockage

Problems with the computer’s built-in cooling system can lead to overheating during regular use. In some instances, cooling fans can wear out over time.

With desktop computers, the system may have been designed with fans powerful enough to push adequate air through the case. This can usually be resolved by adding new fans or swapping in larger fans to move airflow in the front of the desktop case and out the back. On the outside, physical objects within 6 inches of the fan vents can hurt airflow. On the inside, loose cables and new components can restrict airflow.

Dust Buildup

Dust buildup can restrict airflow and cause a computer’s temperature to increase. While dust alone won’t typically break a computer, it can amplify other problems associated with overheating. We’ve talked extensively in the past about how dust buildup can cause crashes. Laptops generally do not have this problem as they don’t move as much air.

Failing Thermal Paste

Computer CPUs use a compound called thermal paste or thermal grease to help transfer heat to the cooling system. It’s possible for this material to wear down over time, which makes it far easier for a computer to overheat.

The solution is to disassemble the computer and replace the compound, but the process requires substantial expertise (especially with laptops) and can break the computer if done incorrectly. If this is the problem, it’s best to defer to the experts.

If your business is looking to keep its computers and network infrastructure running for maximum productivity, contact the IT managed services experts at MPA Networks today.

Network-Attached Storage: Data Backup and Transfer Options for Small Businesses

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

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Network-Attached Storage (NAS) servers are a great asset for small businesses managing data. For the uninitiated, NAS is essentially a streamlined server designed specifically for sharing files between devices.

Because of their simplified nature, NAS devices are typically easier to use and substantially more cost-effective than full-fledged servers.

While most NAS solutions are space-efficient standalone server boxes, some higher-end routers can also be used as NAS devices by attaching an external hard drive. If your office is looking to increase productivity and improve disaster recovery, NAS may be worth its weight in gold.

Easy-to-Use Data Storage

NAS devices work as an inexpensive, easy-to-use data storage option for your business. These devices are so simple to configure that your office doesn’t even need to have a local IT staff to use them. Once configured, accessing the storage can be as simple as using Explorer or Finder as you would with any internal storage device.

Practical Backup and Recovery

In their most practical form, NAS devices can be used as a backup and disaster recovery option for office computers. This way, if a computer hard drive fails or a laptop gets destroyed, your staff can recover recent versions of important documents and files.

However, NAS does not replace the need for Cloud or off-site backups for vital information. An office fire, for example, would wipe out desktop computers and the NAS. Combining both NAS and Cloud backup processes gives your business the best level of protection from data loss.

Faster Information Sharing

NAS is also a viable business continuity option as it does not require Internet connectivity to work. Employees who use multiple devices, such as a laptop, desktop, and tablet, can use the NAS to access the same files from any deviceThese data servers are also excellent for employees collaborating on the same files; gone is the need to use email or Cloud storage to sync or send updates.

Cost-Effective Hardware Comes at a Price

NAS devices aren’t as sophisticated as traditional servers. Designed only to focus on sending and receiving data, they offer substantially less processing power. You won’t be able to use a NAS device to run an email server, for example, or to run any server-based applications. For these, you’ll need to look into server management solutions.

Because of this trade-off, however, NAS devices cost a fraction of the price of a dedicated server. Moreover, your business doesn’t need to worry about wasting money buying too much or too little storage because you can install additional hard drives in the NAS device as needed.

Security Issues

As mentioned above, NAS servers should not be used as a replacement for an off-site, Cloud-based backup. IT professionals often recommend storing important data in at least three locations: two “on-site,” which includes the computer and the NAS, and one “off-site,” like a Cloud service. Additionally, if your business is using NAS storage, you’ll want to make sure it is only visible to authorized individuals. Security in this case could include something as simple as password-protecting the Wi-Fi.

Use our wealth of knowledge at MPA Networks to your advantage to meet your business’s server and storage needs. Contact us today.

Antivirus Software: When One Is Better Than Two

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

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If your company’s antivirus software is letting you down, you should think twice before installing a second one on a computer: It may actually make things worse.

Multiple antivirus programs working in conjunction on the same device is not a case of “the sum is greater than the parts” but rather “less is more.”

With many viable free solutions like AVG, Avast, and Avira, it can be very tempting to install backup for a paid option. However, the interaction between multiple antivirus programs leads at best to, essentially, nothing. At worst, it will be detrimental to system performance, stability, and security.

Stepping on Toes

The primary reason that running simultaneous antivirus programs on the same device is a bad idea is that the two programs will confuse one another for malware infections and try to eliminate each other. According to PC World, the antivirus scan conflicts can spill out and cause other programs to fail, while making the operating system less stable. Computer users may immediately notice general slowdown and shorter battery life after installing a second antivirus program.

Users may also be plagued with continuous “false alarm” messages after threats have been removed because the act of one antivirus program removing an infection will be seen by the other as a malware action. Therefore, if you’re installing a new antivirus program on a computer, you’ll need to remove the old one first. This includes removing Windows Defender.

Anti-Malware Scanning Software: Antivirus Backup Exists

Backup exists, but it’s not found in additional antivirus programs. Instead, your business can utilize additional programs commonly referred to as “anti-malware” that are specifically designed to catch infections antivirus software misses for improved protection.

The term “antivirus” is a bit misleading because the programs actually protect computers from a wide range of software-based threats on top of viruses including Trojans, rootkits, worms, and ransomware. Antivirus refers to a software security program that runs in the background at all times as an active form of protection. Anti-malware programs including Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware, and Spybot work through “On Demand” scans, meaning they can be used periodically to clean malware infections.

The Recovery Clause

In disaster recovery situations, your IT staff may need to install a different antivirus program to combat a malware infection that the currently installed software can’t remove. In this situation, the old software will need to be disabled or uninstalled before the new program can get to work.

If you’re looking for better digital security options for your office, contact MPA networks today. Use our experience in IT consulting to your advantage for assistance in both preventing and reducing downtime over malware threats.

The Benefits of Backups

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

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Even seasoned IT pros have made the mistake of not backing up a device—and panicked after losing countless important files because the device failed. We may know better, yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect.

On the flip side, we’ve all breathed a sigh of relief when a recent backup of our computer or smartphone rescued valuable files after a crash. With employees at businesses large and small using more devices than ever, vulnerability is just as high as the stakes.

It’s never too late (or too early) to implement a reliable backup system—so what are you waiting for?

How Often?

This is a question we hear a lot when it comes to backups. The answer, as ambiguous as it sounds, is “right now.” In an ideal world, your business would configure its employee devices to back up on a daily or weekly basis; but, of course, the more often your business can back up data, the better. And while it’s common for smartphones to Cloud-sync whenever they’re connected to Wi-Fi, it’s worth checking your settings right away.

Minimize Data Loss

Regular data backups are an excellent tool for disaster recovery. In the event that a computer’s hard drive is not recoverable, the ability to restore the machine based on a recent backup significantly decreases the amount of data lost in the process. For example, if the hard drive fails on Tuesday morning and the last backup was on Friday afternoon, the employee will lose at most a day’s worth of work from the incident.

Decrease Recovery Downtime

Backups get your employees back to work faster after a disaster. For obvious reasons, it’s easier to recover a computer to a backup point than to start from scratch, and for some problems, restoration can be even more efficient than repairs.

Removing an infection, decrypting data, and recovering a computer that’s been infected with ransomware, for instance, can take days. But if the computer has undergone a recent backup, restoration may take mere hours.

Old File Version Recovery

Every so often an office has to deal with an employee accidentally making a change to a shared file that can’t be fixed. Regular backups are like freezing a moment in time for your business where you can always go back and recover what was lost.

Embrace the Cloud

Take advantage of Cloud storage solutions for a range of benefits—especially business continuity. With the Cloud, employees can, in many cases, share and access their work from any device. If an employee is on a business trip and needs to update or reference a file stored on their office desktop computer, they can access the information through the Cloud platform.

If your business is looking to improve its data backup practices for a more reliable digital ecosystem, contact the experts at MPA Networks today. MPA’s IT Managed Services offerings can help your company implement a backup system that minimizes downtime and protects your data for both peace of mind and pace of business.

Are Chromebooks Right for YOUR Business?

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

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Google’s Chromebook platform has the potential to replace traditional laptops and increase productivity for businesses, much like it has in the consumer market at large. For the uninitiated,

Chromebooks are Cloud-oriented laptops that run most operations through the Google Chrome web browser instead of traditional desktop applications.

And, while lacking the raw horsepower and feature range found in Windows and Mac computers, Chromebooks manage to pack a ton of functionality in a secure, zippy, and affordable package.

Extremely Capable Machines

According to TechRadar, the Chromebook is an ideal device for workers who rely mostly, if not exclusively, on Cloud data storage and web applications. Employees that work mostly through Google Apps already will find the device a natural fit. If it runs in Chrome, it runs on the Chromebook.

Other employees who primarily use desktop computers may find a Chromebook a much more powerful productivity booster for a secondary mobile device compared with smartphones and tablets. While the devices may have slower CPUs than comparable laptops, they’re running an OS with little overhead bloat, so they tend to offer a smooth user experience.

Cloud-Based Advantages

The Cloud-based nature of Chromebooks makes them a great asset for malware prevention and simplified disaster recovery. According to Google, Chromebooks “are designed from the ground up to defend against malware and viruses.” Additionally, all files saved in web applications are stored in the Cloud, which means the disaster recovery process amounts to simply reloading the operating system. Moreover, Chromebooks are highly secure in the event of theft since they don’t store confidential data on the device itself.

Low Cost

Chromebooks are a cost-effective option for many companies, but small startups may have the most to gain. Don’t use—or can’t afford—costly management tools, server hardware, and other infrastructure? Chromebooks start as low as $150, with more capable models in the $200-250 range; high-end Chromebooks hit the cost ceiling at $500. These are much cheaper than typical enterprise laptops, making them an affordable alternative. Chromebooks are also a great option for business trips, considering three-day laptop rentals can cost between $70 and $150 per employee.

Results May Vary

Chromebooks aren’t for everyone, so make sure the device fits seamlessly into your workflow before making a company-wide commitment. If, for example, your employees need powerful systems with proprietary software for intense applications like video editing, rendering 3D models, or financial modeling, and these tasks are not offloaded into the Cloud, then Chromebooks are not for you. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Chromebooks lose most of their functionality when working in areas without an Internet connection, and that configuring a Chromebook to print isn’t as easy as on a PC or Mac.

That said, many of the Chromebook’s shortcomings could see improvements soon: Google is planning to add Android application support in the near future. If your workflow can adapt well to Chromebooks, the pros may outweigh the cons and then some.

Disaster Recovery: Is Your Data Protected From the Next Catastrophe?

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Protect data during a natural disaster and recover data after a catastrophyLast month, the Bay Area commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Those of us who lived through that experience remember the sudden, unexpected jolt — and how the event disrupted our lives for several weeks afterward.

Of course, we were a lot less reliant on technology back in 1989 (remember life without a smartphone?), but we know today how data networks (email and more) are absolutely mission-critical for businesses of all sizes. What happens when your server suddenly becomes inoperative? Your entire organization grinds to a screeching halt.

Planning for Disasters — and Recovery

With so much productivity at stake, small businesses now see the need for IT disaster recovery planning (commonly referred to as DR). By “disaster,” we mean anything from Northern California’s next major earthquake — which experts insist is coming — to a localized fire, flood, or even simple human error. It’s worth preparing for any contingency that could knock out your data center for hours, days or weeks at a time. The longer your IT network is down, the longer you’re out of business — with money flying out the door.

Have you ever considered that a “simple” virus attack like Cryptolocker, or an employee’s supposedly innocuous mistake, could totally take your company down? That’s also a disaster. Disasters are no longer just low-frequency events.

A disaster can happen to your firm at any time — even in the next five minutes.

DR isn’t the same thing as simply backing up applications and data. It means minimizing that costly downtime by having the ability to fully restore your network as soon as possible. Many smaller businesses used to rely on a system of backing up files on their own external drives or tapes, which seemed to offer an adequate solution… until the day they needed to manually restore their entire network. Between the time commitment involved and the trial-and-error results, small business owners realized that disaster recovery without specialized support can quickly turn into a second nightmare.

Cloud-based Solutions

Today, small businesses are increasingly turning to a Managed Services Provider (MSP) to design and implement a cloud-based DR solution. While most people think of the cloud simply as offsite data storage or a “virtual” operating environment, added benefits include quick, hassle-free recovery from any catastrophic IT failure — allowing small businesses a level of data protection equivalent to that of larger enterprises, at a reasonable monthly cost.

Among the many advantages of partnering with an MSP is developing a customized DR plan, whether that’s a wholly cloud-based platform (hosted completely at a cloud data center) or a hybrid solution (cloud-hosting in tandem with the customer’s onsite equipment). A premium MSP is staffed 24/7 by knowledgeable IT professionals who will regularly test the entire DR system to ensure it’s ready when needed.

When it comes to day-to-day IT operations, preparing for a worst-case scenario is usually the last thing most small business administrators think about — until it’s too late. Safeguard your company’s livelihood with the help of an experienced Bay Area MSP with over 31 years of trusted reliability. Give disaster recovery planning a closer look here.