3 Critical Services Your Current IT Support Is Missing

3 Critical Services Your Current IT Support Is Missing

It’s always fun for IT guys to see people in the financial industry marvel at Bitcoins and their fluctuations. Here in IT, fluctuation and change are the norm.  A significant service can be a lifesaver now but give it a few years, and it will be completely null.

Herein lies the problem. In IT, things change fast, and businesses that don’t adapt to these changes are flushed down the toilet. This is why choosing an IT Support is a daunting task. The service spectrum is broad, and needs are always changing, and it’s always difficult to tell if your IT service provider is providing you with the best services, or leaving some vital things out of their checklist.

Your IT service provider may be missing the following boxes on their service provision checklist:

Cloud Cost Optimization

The internet always seems free for everyone except for IT firms. Your internet provider may be intentionally or unintentionally, making you pay way more to the Cloud Service Providers than you should. Statistics show that most companies spend about 36% more than they should be paying to their Cloud Service Providers such as AWS.

Most IT businesses lose out on massive savings by outsourcing their Cloud Management to IT Service Providers who overlook cost optimization. To these providers, just getting you to the cloud is an accomplishment, even if your business has to spend fortunes to use it.

There are a plethora of actions your MSP should be undertaking to cut your cloud costs significantly. Your IT service provider should be:

  • Using or be heavily invested in Cloud analytics
  • Integration of Auto Scaling To reduce costs
  • Using AWS cost optimization tools
  • Power Utilization Practices such as Power schedules
  • Right-Sizing Of Computing Services
  • Use of Spot instances when necessary

Contingency Plans and Security

Once you have outsourced most of your IT service requirements to an IT firm, the security and safety of your data and the customer’s data becomes a priority. The two most essential things in security are contingency plans and constant improvement. Though most MSPs invest heavily in security, very few offer “Plan Bs” when the ceiling caves. Failure to plan, in IT more than any other industry, is planning to fail.

  • Your MSP should have:
  • Clearly laid out Disaster Recovery Plans
  • Insurance in case of a Cyber Attack
  • Extensive and Secure Backups for your data

In terms of constant improvement, your IT service Provider’s security plan should always be evolving. Security in IT is not a destination but a journey. Malware is continuously changing and improving, and so should your IT providers Security Plans. Your IT provider should be keeping up with the following cybersecurity and malware trends:

  • Increase in instances of Ransomware
  • Third-party Cryptomining
  • State-sponsored cyber attacks
  • Artificial intelligence in cyber terrorism

Regulatory Compliance

For years now, it was assumed that the web and IT were beyond regulation. Well, the amount of regulation in IT has significantly increased for two fundamental reasons. Governments and regulators have spent the past few years catching up. Also, the rise of IT and its growth has seen IT expand into uncharted territory and industries increasing its influence. This has called for more regulation.

Navigating the regulatory landscape is an essential service your MSP needs to offer. Some of the past, present and future regulations that have been lorded over the IT industry include:

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union
  • Consumer Privacy Act in California (CCAP)
  • The Biometric Data Law in Illinois
  • Consumer Online Privacy Right Act(proposed Bill)
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
  • To show how a lack of regulatory compliance can cost a business and how fast the regulatory climate is changing, YouTube was recently fined $170 million for violating the COPPA regulations.

Regulation in itself is a noble idea, but it may lead to massive losses in money and time if neglected. Your IT provider has the responsibility of preparing you for future regulations and how they will affect your business. Your IT provider should be able to

  • Extrapolate your current investments and plans to see if they will be legally viable in the next ten years or so.
  • Align the services they offer to ensure that they comply with present and possibly future regulation.
  • Assure the privacy of your IT firm and the data of your customers and staff.

Though it’s true that the IT climate is always changing, we here at 4 Corner IT have always been changing with it. For any inquiries about IT and Custom solutions on your IT needs, contact us and let us be part of your story.

6 Simple Steps to Business Continuity in a Disaster

Network Support

Disaster can strike anytime, anywhere. No business owners likes to think of what may happen in the event critical processes and information are compromised, but developing a plan of action is the most proactive approach a company can take. Consider how your business might preserve core functions and integrity in the event of:

  • Data loss or damage
  • Flood or fire
  • Downtime of critical technology systems
  • Loss of key members
  • Loss of access to software and accounts
  • Hacking and data theft

Many companies tend to focus on the recovery stage, once the damage has been done. While coming back from a disaster is undoubtedly an important component in any business structure, at 4 Corner IT we are firm believers in active data protection and core process defense. That’s why we’ve put together 6 Simple Steps to Business Continuity in a Disaster. With your business is facing a cyber breach or a more tangible crisis, be sure to have a backup plan ready and waiting.

1. Prepare a Business Impact Analysis

Think of a business impact analysis, or BIA, as a fire drill for your company. A concise, predictive model simulates the likely impacts that may result from a potential loss scenario. Risk assessment may include any scenario from a direct loss of resources to failure of a major vendor or service. Items to consider when mapping a BIA include:

  • Lost sales and income
  • Delayed sales or income
  • Increased expenses (e.g., overtime labor, outsourcing, expediting costs, etc.)
  • Regulatory fines
  • Contractual penalties or loss of contractual bonuses
  • Customer dissatisfaction or defection
  • Delay of new business plans

Determining the financial and global impacts of each gives businesses direction when it comes to investing in recovery and mitigation.

2. Rate Your Readiness

Look for the weak links in your company chain. Grading your performance is never fun, but a thorough audit allows us to identify vulnerabilities before they become threats. Give your large or small business a health check by evaluating firewalls, network security, corporate protocol for sensitive information such as passwords and data, and overall readiness should a disaster strike. Assign a numerical grade to each item, with 1 being not at all prepared and 5 being fully ready to withstand a crisis.

3. Construct a Plan

Now it’s time to work out a plan. An effective disaster recovery plan should closely mirror the BIA you’ve prepared. For each scenario, include a triage approach to how your business will handle a crisis based on the severity and magnitude of the threat. A solid plan should include:

  • Communication
  • Delegation
  • Plan for hard assets (office equipment, electronics, furniture)
  • Plan for digital assets (data, passwords, accounts and software) 
  • Backup check
  • Detailed asset inventory
  • Vendor communication and service restoration plan

Specific details of each can be aligned to your business’ needs and priorities.

4. It Takes a Team

Do your employees know what to do in the event of a disaster? Is there a clear chain of command to delegate tasks if key members of the team are suddenly absent? Will key processes be able to continue in the event of a delivery delay or supply shortage?

These are the kinds of questions effective leaders need to be asking their team. Disaster recovery and preparedness is a company wide effort. Communicate a consistent protocol to all departments and be sure each member of your team understands the company’s plan of action when it comes to preserving business continuity in the face of a crisis.

5. Evolve Alongside Your Growing Business

Because your company is constantly growing and evolving, be prepared to review, test, and update your disaster preparedness strategy. A dynamic plan should be reevaluated every six months to take into account changing processes and functions. Make a checklist and involve department managers in the auditing process so that everyone is on board with a proactive approach to loss prevention and recovery.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Even the most disaster savvy businesses rely on experts to fill the gaps in their plan. Trusting in knowledgeable professionals allows you and your staff to focus on your own expertise — the success of the company.

Our IT team is available whenever our New York business owners need us with active solutions to data recovery and disaster preparedness. From managed IT services to support and consulting, we take the stress out of protecting your company’s valuable digital assets.

Contact us today to start preparing for your company’s future.

Business Continuity – One of the Keys to Maintaining Success

Business Continuity - One of the Keys to Maintaining Success
Maintaining Success

In a global world, a company may find themselves competing with organizations, not just around the block or in another state, but perhaps with other businesses halfway across the globe. With more competition than ever, no reputable company wants to gain a fly-by-night reputation with the public. This is where focusing on business continuity comes into play. What does an organization need to do to cultivate a reputation that says they are reliable, trustworthy, and committed to fulfilling the needs and goals of its customers?

Understanding what contributes to the steadfastness of an organization can make the difference between being a company that quickly rose to the top, (and failed just as quickly), and is a company that truly earned its solid reputation.

Why Resiliency Matters

When the business climate is doing well, it’s relatively easy to rise to the top, perhaps even becoming a star performer. What often separates the wheat from the chaff is when there is a downturn in the economy or a business finds themselves in the middle of a natural disaster. Those who enjoyed success only on a superficial level often find their company’s reputation is in tatters, or perhaps the business simply folded altogether.

In contrast, organizations who incorporated the concepts of business continuity and resilience into their overall business plan may very well take some hits, but ultimately they will persevere through the down times because they used the right building blocks to create their foundation.

IT Providers – A Key Building Block

With today’s heavy reliance on information technology, any business that wants to ensure the resiliency and continuity of their organization must understand that selecting the right provider is one of the key building blocks for success. A successful business absolutely does need continuity in their information services in order to consistently provide the highest level of service to their customers.

It’s very important to find a provider who is not only reliable when business operations are running smoothly, but they are also ready to provide seamless support for your company if a less than desirable event should occur.

If you would like to know more about our commitment to providing outstanding reliable IT support, please contact us.

Cloud Disaster Recovery: 5 Key Steps to Secure Your Data

Benefits of Using Cloud Servers
cloud servers.

Hosting applications on the cloud is tempting many IT organisations for sundry reasons like availing benefits from data centers, backup power sources and other capabilities that till lately only established IT organisations could afford.

Pay-as-you-go culture or guaranteed availability makes cloud adoption an easy and unperturbed choice for many SMBs and large scale organisations.

Many hosting providers maintain compound data centers, so decision makers often assume disaster recovery to be the inherent feature in the cloud culture that is offered to them. But little do they realize that this is a vital issue that warrants concern. Disaster Recovery (DR) is not a default configuration for many providers that offer cloud space in the IT market.

The 9/11 attacks cautioned many towards IT disaster preparedness (though probability of such disasters are extremely rare but not impossible). Before dealing with your cloud space provider and before signing on the dotted line, the DR diligence should be thoroughly assessed. The thought process should determine the risks, lay out the potential solutions and implement the plan that meets the required service level at reasonable costs.

This paper discusses the storage elements of disaster recovery planning process.

Step 1: Risks Assessment/Evaluating the Risks

Disaster risks can be perceived as a range of probability. They can be categorised into three major groups:

  • Site Disaster: Fire, short-circuits, or long-term power outages can render the data centre (or computer components) unusable for longer than the specified service agreement.
  • Area Disaster: Floods, tornadoes (we cannot forget the recent ‘Sandy’ that created much turmoil in US), hurricanes, snow storms can ruin a data centre completely.
  • Regional Disaster:  Terrorist attacks, financial failures, etc should never be under estimated.

An optimised data centre design softens various risks associated with all three of these categories. An appropriate data centre location can mitigate likely weather events, and other natural conditions that cannot be controlled or regulated.

Smart data centre designs have uninterrupted power supply sources for sudden power failures. Organisations that have a plan in place to re-host applications will experience less disruption and likely lowered costs. As a part of risk assessment, IT managers must consider how unavoidable statuses can met with just as ease.

Step 2: Determining Requirements

After implementing the risks assessment phase, IT organisations need to classify their recovery requirements for the applications that are hosted. Requirements should be developed under the guiding parameters of:

  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO):  RPO is the maximum tolerable period in which data might be lost from an IT service due to a major incident. The RPO gives systems designers a limit to work to. For instance, ‘quickest RPO’ indicates zero tolerance for data loss. A 24 hour RPO would indicate that restoring data as of yesterday’s backup is adequate, resulting in a loss of all transactions and data conducted after that time.
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO):  RTO determines the maximum tolerable time for recovering the lost data and bringing the application back running like before. RTO indicates the time to restart systems, databases and applications on the server.

RPO and RTO requirements are directly proportionate to the cost of downtime. Cost of downtime can include actual loss of revenue, loss of employee productivity, loss of market goodwill and most importantly loss of reputation. If the cost of downtime is greater than the cost of Disaster Recovery Strategy, then (or any situation) strategy is always worth the cost.

If the cost of acquiring and treasuring the customer is high then a vigilant DR strategy is a must have on the ‘To-Do’ checklist.

Step 3: Understanding DR Options

Backup to tape and off-site storage: Tape remains the cheapest and most used method for moving data to a secured data storage facility or even for archiving it. Following are some issues that are related to tape and which should never be given a blind eye:

  • Tape format: The format compatibility between the source and the target should be taken good care of. Different generations of same technology can cause confusion too.
  • Magnetic disk drives vs tapes: The approach involves data redundancy in an offsite data storage facility to magnetic disk drives or magnetic tapes. Disk backups can potentially reduce recovery time in the event of any disaster. Most backup applications can be restored to disk using compression technology; therefore, the backup image is much smaller in size than the actual data image.
  • Note: Virtual Tape Libraries (VTLs) are specialised storage devices (disk only or disk -to-tape) that can further automate the Disaster Recovery process.
  • Synchronous Data Replication: Synchronous Data Replication ensures that every piece of data entered or changed is concurrently replicated. Although synchronous data replication is one of the most expensive off-site replication options.

Whatever the backup methodology, it is important to ensure that the operating system should have solid redundancy strategies so that the entire environment can be recreated even after the servers crash.

Step 4: Auditing Cloud Providers

Cloud providers should be willing to provide users with documentation regarding their data centre protection strategies. Location factor of the data centre is usually underestimated or ignored while introspecting disaster recovery strategies.

Clients should be vigilant towards exploring the range of data protection solutions offered by the provider. Most cloud space providers offer daily backup-to disk capabilities and some supplement that with periodic tape backup (e.g. weekly or monthly) but that ignores the need to create immediate data redundancy.

Off-site tape transfer facility should be checked under the DR strategy tools. On-site backups can help recovery from data corruption, and unintended data deletion, and allow quick restoration. Imperative elements that should be considered while auditing cloud providers are:

  • Location
  • Possible events
  • Power Grid/Communications Considerations and Contingencies
  • Proximity to ‘prone-to-danger’ locations (e.g. any water body or any potential terrorist target areas like airports, seaports)
  • Vendor’s DR emergencies

Step 5: Implementing and Managing Your Cloud DR Solution

As technological fluctuations will go round the world, cloud providers will likely be on the buying or selling side of the data centre acquisition or integration. Most important part lies in evaluating and selecting the right service provider with the right Disaster Recovery strategies, equally important is the step to review your DR requirements and solutions.

The Disaster Recovery solutions should be well tested and trusted by the provider to ensure the promised performance as the DR solution that was appropriate last might turn out to be non-operative over time.

What Does a Typical Contingency Plan Outline Look Like?

What Does a Typical Contingency Plan Outline Look Like?

contingency plan outline

Part of running a modern business is planning for the quick recovery of your business’ computer processes in the event of an emergency. In the past, when the computers went down, they just went down.

According to this article, organizations create contingency plans, sometimes called a “Plan B,” to prepare for something bad that could affect the organization’s ability to function. Developing an effective contingency plan is essential for any organization.

Having a system in place to restore them immediately was unheard of for small and medium-sized businesses; and even for many large corporations. Professionals mainly used computers to run programs like Excel or Word. They managed files in certain ways and receptionists played Solitaire. However, as we all know, times have changed.

Now our global business culture is somewhat reliant on technology for many things like:

  • Communication
  • Marketing
  • Customer relationship management
  • Online and offline reputation management
  • File storage
  • Business processes

Because of this, it’s now crucial to back up your entire computer system and have protocols in place, so that your business can continue to run smoothly even when your systems are down.

Having a good contingency plan in place will ensure that business interruption, data loss, and productivity loss are minimal across all the devices that your company uses.

This could include your company:

  • Desktops and laptops
  • Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets
  • Peripherals like printers and all-in-one fax machines
  • Servers
  • Websites
  • Computer networks
  • Mainframes
  • Distributed systems

Depending on the size of your business and your standard operating procedures, some contingency plans might include:

Having to relocate your primary business and IT systems temporarily to an alternate site, using alternate equipment, or having your IT team reset some systems manually to get them working properly again

Here’s a Typical Contingency Plan Outline

1. State your goals – In the event of a power outage, drive failure or even an extreme condition like fire or water damage, what goals must your contingency plan meet for your business to remain efficient and operational?

2. Define the impact on your business – How much downtime can your business really handle? Some businesses can handle 7 days, while others can only handle 3 hours. What type of overall impact financially and professionally would an outage and downtime cause? What is the scope of varying degrees?

Though this may seem like redundant step, it’s not. Yes, “it would be bad,” is an answer that could apply to any negative situation. However, you might not realize that certain departments can handle much less downtime than you realized and some might not need much investment in contingency planning.

3. Once you’ve identified your goals and the potential impacts on your business, decide what preventive steps you can take to minimize problems; so you don’t have so much to fix during an outage – This could mean using certain types of backup, cloud servers located in other states and taking other simple measures that will mean certain parts of your business wouldn’t even need resetting or restoration.

4. Next identify your list of go-to recovery strategies – You should have a list of recovery strategies to implement immediately when something happens. You should have strategies appropriate for both small and extreme emergencies.

5. Next, take time to test your plan and train your staff – Every contingency plan is different, so just like a fire drill, your company staff and IT staff should understand how your plan will work.

6. Ensure that you’re taking the proper maintenance steps daily, weekly etc.

Should your IT team routinely check servers?
Does any software or equipment need biannual upgrading?
Do you have any new staff you need to train on how to properly backup their work or behave in an emergency situation?

Contact Us

We understand that contingency planning is just as much a part of modern businesses as smartphones and color printers. We understand how to make the restoration process simple for businesses, yet effective in the case of an emergency.