Should I Run Regular Backups?

One would think the answer to this should be pretty obvious but it’s key to understand the whole process from start to finish!

© z_amir - Fotolia

© z_amir – Fotolia

There are a number of key questions that need to be answered in order to fully answer the question …

  1. Could your business survive if you had a complete loss of your data?
  2. How often does you data change and/or get updated?
  3. In a worst case scenario how far might you need to go back to restore your data?

Let’s deal with each question separately …

Could your business survive if you had a complete loss of your data?

I don’t know a single business on the planet that could survive if they had a total loss of their data and no relevant backup to retreat to.

This one point alone should be reason enough to have a regular backup scenario in place, but it also leads us to the next very important point in this discussion …

How often does you data change and/or get updated?

In the previous point I mentioned not having a “relevant” backup to retreat to. If you have a business where data is constantly changing what good is it if you indeed have a full backup but it’s a month old. The data you use in your business may change at a much different pace than other business, so when picking a backup strategy you need to take this into account.

You may decide that if you had a complete failure and had to go back to data from 2 weeks ago that would be just fine … that’s perfectly fine then … but at least think about it and be honest with yourself in your assessment.

In a worst case scenario how far might you need to go back to restore your data?

You might decide, in the end, that you want to do daily backups because your data changes frequently and that’s perfect! The next question you need to decide is that, from a historical perspective, how far back at anyone time would you want to be able to go back and perform restores of your company data?

Would you want to be able to go back only 1 month?? 2 months? 6 months? Think of it as a big rolling timeline where, as times marches on, the oldest falls off the timeline and is gone with newer data taking it’s place. You have to decide how big a “bubble” you’d want to have at any one given time and use that to decide what kind of backup strategy to have.

Summary

There really is no scenario I can see where a business “wouldn’t” need a regular backup strategy of some sort. All that’s left to decide is exactly “what kind” of strategy to have. The best time to decide these things is “NOW” from a position of strength as opposed to thinking about it after the fact when disaster strikes and it’s too late!

I’ve also covered this topic in a couple of other articles on my site … Is Your Data Safe And Could You Recover?  -and- It’s Late On Friday, Do You Know Where Your Data Is? so I’d encourage you to check out those articles as well!

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Choosing An Online File Sharing And Storage Service

People love having their data available and accessible from a multitude of different platforms, so online file storage and sharing might make sense for you in certain circumstances!

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© ottawawebdesign – Fotolia

The number of different devices that people use in their day to day personal and business lives seems to be growing.

I know myself that I have my MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad, and, depending on what I am doing at any one given time, one of these devices is almost always near me.

However, there are files that I am working on all the time and need to access frequently therefore one of the challenges I face is the ability to get to the files that I need from wherever I am.

There a services out there today like Google DriveDropBox, One Drive and Box (see here for a fuller list of possibilities) that allow you to store your files in the cloud and sync them to a multitude of devices so that your files follow you wherever you are and are always accessible.

Some of these services have tighter security than the others, some of them have nicer web interfaces than the others, some might have cheaper pricing ..etc…etc..  You could likely make a big list of PRO’S and CON’s for each.

Some of you might be completely on your own and just need something for your own personal use … some of you might work in teams and need more security and ability to determine who gets to see what and when … some of you might be super price conscious … Some of the services come with a certain amount for free and others provide little or no space for free … There is no “one size fits all” product here!

This is not intended to push you toward any particular product and is more intended to highlight the fact that these kinds of services are out there and are ready and available to you.

I would highly encourage you to check out the services mentioned above and maybe even read the article I’ve linked which compares a bunch of them!

You will ultimately need to do your own research on the topic and make a decision on the product that makes the most sense for you.

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

I’ve Deleted Something … No Backup … What Now?

You have had people preach to you about backups, and you’ve always intended to have one, but now you’ve deleted something and “don’t” have a backup … what are your options?

© vizafoto - Fotolia

© vizafoto – Fotolia

Before we get started we understand that you’re likely a little freaked out at this point … very understandable. It is, however, vitally important you have a clear head and methodically think through the options available to you before jumping to conclusions.

Let’s start with the obvious and just get that out of the way first! After any deletion the first place we want to look is in the Recycle Bin (PC) or Trash (Mac). You’d be surprised how many people never look in those obvious places first.

Once you’ve confirmed that your deleted item(s) are not located here then you essentially have 2 options available to you …

  1. Software Based File Recovery
  2. Hardware Based File Recovery

Let’s look at each of these items separately …

Software Based File Recovery

This would be trying to use a piece of software to search your hard drive and, in some cases, find a file that’s been marked for deletion, and is no longer accessible, but the area of the hard drive that file was sitting on has not been reclaimed yet. In “some” cases certain pieces of software can be used to reverse the process and bring the file(s) back.

The key point to stress here is that this option would need to be tried immediately because once a file is marked for deletion and no longer accessible the operating system might re-use that space for a new file in which case the deleted file would be completely overwritten and, hence, gone…. so “time is of the essence” indeed…  You really want to limit the amount of disk activity on the machine at this stage.

A simple Google search of “software file recovery” reveals quite a number of both paid and free software file recovery tools available.

I would personally be a little wary of the free tools out there only because, as with most free tools like this, if you don’t pay for something you really have no right to an expectation in the end.

Many of the paid products will allow a trial in which case you’d be allowed to run a scan and possibly even identify that a missing file “is” accessible and “could be” retrievable and then you could pay the fee for the software and likely get your files back.

Do you research though (preferably on another machine to limit disk activity) and try to find some independent reviews of the software that look good to you and narrow it down before trying …

Hardware Based File Recovery

This is usually much more involved and often much more expensive than software based file recovery. This method is often used when a hard drive has crashed and the operating system no longer boots up.

If the hard drive is still physically intact and it’s just the operating system that has failed then you can go to any computer shop and ask them to recover the hard drive contents. They will usually remove the hard drive from the PC or Mac and install it in an external USB device and read the contents like any other external hard drive and grab the contents …

If the hard drive is not physically intact (e.g. when you turn the machine on you get a specific message about a missing hard drive or an inaccessible hard drive) then this is a whole different story.

In this case you need to decide just how important the data on that hard drive is. If you determine that you absolutely must get the data back at all costs then you would need to send it to a lab where they pull the drive apart physically and swap out whatever parts they have to try and get the drive back up and running again. If they are able to do that then hopefully they can get the data back for you.

If the hard drive needs to go into a lab for this kind of work it can often run into costs of $1,000.00 or more depending on the provider and how quickly you need it done.

Summary

This is some information to consider if you find yourself in this exact situation and I hope it’s been helpful .. please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me using my CONTACT page if you have questions or comments!

Is Your E-Mail Secure, Protected and Recoverable?

E-Mail communications is the lifeblood of any organization and you want to protect it as best you can with the tools that are available to you

© markrubens - Fotolia

© markrubens – Fotolia

With e-mail security and protection we are really talking about 3 main areas of focus …

  • Backup and Disaster Recovery of email and email items
  • Virus, Spam and Content Filtering
  • Forensic Archiving and Storage

Let’s take a look at each of these separately …

Backup and Disaster Recovery of email and email items

Let’s face it, we’ve all had a situation where we’ve deleted an email folder by accident or actually “fat fingered” a delete key and Murphy’s Law strikes! That important email you received yesterday and absolutely must have tomorrow is gone!

The very first thing to do is to look in your “Trash Bin” and see if it’s there at all!

I know I know … you’re likely thinking “DUH! Of course I’d look there!!!” but you’d be surprised the number of people over the years that have faced this kind of situation and not done the obvious and looked there first so I thought I’d just get “STEP #1” out of the way

If this doesn’t work for you then the solution to finding your email depends on what your particular setup scenario is.

I think the best way to handle this would be for me to suggest a few different scenarios and if none of those apply please feel free to leave a comment below, or at my website, and I’ll try and address that specific scenario for you!

Scenario #1 : Standard Internet Service Provider E-Mail using POP3 for e-mail access

If the account set up on the machine is set to leave the email on the server for a number of days before removing it then you may be in luck. You can simply log in to the web interface for your email and retrieve the email if it was sent fairly recently … (have your current IT Staff check and see if your POP3 account is set up this way)

If this setting is set but the email you are missing was received outside the “# of days” window that is set on the POP3 account settings then you will need to go to your backup for this … if your email files are kept on your local PC or Laptop and you don’t have a backup of those local files …. then …. well … how do I say this … it’s likely time to cut your losses and move on!

If your email files are stored on the server at your office then you will need to contact your IT Administrator and have them do a restore of those email files and sift through them to retrieve the email you are looking for …

(See It’s Late On Friday, Do You Know Where Your Data Is? for tips on being aware of where all your data is at all times)

Scenario #2 : Hosted Microsoft Exchange Services in the Cloud (Office365 or others)

It would very much depend on the hosting provider that you use as to what their policies are as far as backup and restores are concerned.

Many of them will offer a special archiving service as an “add-on” to your account but even “that” might have a limited time window attached.

(See How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider? for some great tips on this)

Scenario #3 : Using GoogleApps for Business for E-Mail

Google is a bit unique in the way they offer email in that even if you delete an email you can often times still search for it in your email program and it will often show up and that’s due to the way that emails are stored in the Google Cloud … and if you can’t find it using a regular search in your email client then often logging into your Google Apps web interface will allow you to search for it there and find it.

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ACTION ITEM : I can’t possibly cover every single scenario here but it basically comes down to this! Ask your IT Management team this one question …

“Is this organizations email set up in such a way that we can easily recover an email or emails if someone should accidentally delete something?”

If this is important to you and they cannot answer this question definitively then changes need to be made to your setup so you can have the “Peace Of Mind” knowing that you’re covered!
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Virus, Spam and Content Filtering

If your email services are hosted on an email server at your office there are numerous ways you can handle this onsite at your office .. here’s a few possibilities

Router/Firewall Based Solution : Many of todays’ enterprise class firewalls and routers have security services you can subscribe to from the manufacturer to screen for Viruses and Malware right as soon as it hits your site and before the email is allowed to touch your email server

(See How Do I Pick The Best Security Firewall and Associated Security Devices For My Business? for some great tips)

Dedicated E-Mail Security Device : This is a dedicated piece of hardware where all incoming and outgoing email is sent to for “screening and cleaning” before it is allowed either “inbound” or “outbound” from your organization … This might be a great solution for a company that is committed to their current router/firewall hardware but still desires enterprise class protection… these devices can fit into pretty much any office network scenario

Software Plug-In for Existing E-Mail Server Vendor : The software vendor for your current e-mail server software may themselves have a software “add-on” or plugin available that fits nicely with your existing server setup …

If you are using a Cloud E-Mail Provider you will need to check directly with them inquire as what kind of email security processes they have in place.

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ACTION ITEM : Have the discussion with your current IT Management Team and ask them this question …

“What steps have been taken in this organization to protect our incoming and outgoing email from all the different types of virus and malware activity?”

This is an incredibly critical piece of your network and it is an absolutely essential to have this covered. The current solution of just having Desktop Anti-Virus may not be 100% effective … Ask lots of question and if you don’t have a peace about it then you need your IT team to make the necessary changes so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you’re taken care of!’re covered!
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Forensic Archiving and Storage

Whether you are bound by certain laws that require you to keep email history for a certain time frame, or you desire to have a record of all email coming either in our out of your organization there are solutions available that can give this capability to you …

Hosting Your Own Mail Server?

#1 : Check with your email server software vendor and see if they have a solution ?

#2 : Similar to the “Dedicated E-Mail Security Device” scenario mentioned above, you can have all inbound and outbound emails directed to a “device” or “server” where it is first archived before being delivered.

Hosting E-Mails In The Cloud?

#1 : Check with the vendor to see if they have this kind of capability built into their systems to give this to you …

This can be tremendously useful if you need to find an email during an audit situation? during legal proceedings???

Having a solution like this takes the “guess work” out of things as it allows you to literally search for “anything” coming in or out of the organization during however long you are set to keep email for?

SUMMARY :

This is a pretty deep topic and I’ve tried to cover as many of the scenarios as possible … in the end it all comes down to having regular discussion with your IT team about issues like E-Mail Security and Protection …

I’d encourage you to leave comments below and let’s have a conversation …

“Ransomeware” Is Out There, Are You Safe And Protected? …

If you have been reading the news lately you no doubt have seen that Ransomware seems to be rearing it’s ugly head again … the great news is that the devastating effects of this are entirely preventable!

© iQoncept - Fotolia

© iQoncept – Fotolia

“Ransomware is a type of malware which restricts access to the computer system it infects and demands a ransom paid to the creators of the malware in order for the restriction to be removed” – (from Wikipedia)

We are all potential targets of this kind of behaviour the second we turn our computers on but the good news is that there are a number of simple steps we can take to mitigate any potential damage that may come from an infection of this type.

Firewall Protection

If you are primarily a home user then a simple hardware firewall from the major consumer brands like Cisco-Linksys or D-Link would be the absolute first line of defence for any setup that accesses the internet.

If you are primarily a business or corporation where a single internet pipe is serving up an Internet connection for several people, then you will want to consider a hardware firewall solution that is a bit more robust. Many companies provide solutions at this level such as SonicWallCisco or Juniper and many others.

At their most basic level these devices prevent un-fettered access to your network or PC from anyone on the outside unless you first initiate the connection.

At the corporate level many of these devices also carry with them a complete suit of security services and processes to provide virus and malware scanning right at the hardware level.

See our other article entitled “How Do I Pick The Best Security Firewall and Associated Security Devices For My Business?” for a deeper dive into this subject.

Anti-Virus Software

On the desktops and, possibly, servers in your environment you absolutely “must” make sure that proper Anti-Virus protection is available and running on each device in your environment. Both real time “on the fly” scans must be active as well as regular full scans of each machine.

This is meant to try and prevent an infection from getting too far if it does make it on your machine …

Onsite and Offsite Backups

Ultimately it comes down to this … someone is holding your data hostage and will not release it to you unless you pay them for it.

Consider this! : What if you were more than willing to just turn the machine off and blow it up/scrub it clean and reload everything from scratch … this pretty much takes the teeth out of any threat or blackmail that they could potentially throw at your doesn’t it?

If you are completely aware of where all your data is, and confirm that you could turn your machine off and get the data elsewhere then you are sitting quite pretty.

See our other article entitled “It’s Late On Friday, Do You Know Where Your Data Is?” for more on this.

Remedial Action

Once you know you have an infection and it’s not possible to remove it I would highly suggest the following steps :

#1 : Disconnect the machine from the Internet and shut it off.

#2 : As mentioned above, check all your backups and confirm you have access to all your data elsewhere!

#3 : Once you confirm you have access to your data elsewhere then I would proceed to scrub your machine clean and reload from scratch.

Now in the situation where you find yourself stricken with this virus and no backups are available then you have a choice to make and make quickly!

Even if the program says it will cost you $300.00, for example, you may think “Well, it’s only $300.00 so maybe I should just pay it an avoid the hassle” … in this case you have no reason to trust that it will end there! The virus may just likely freeze the machine again and ask for $$$ again.

In any event, the safest approach to this would be to consult a professional before attempting any remedial action and your choices at that time will need to be reviewed.

If you are currently sailing in safe waters and all is well then “NOW” is the perfect time to consider crafting a plan to deal with just such a situation!

I’d welcome you leaving a comment below and if you are interested in having a plan like this crafted for “your” business please reach out using the different methods on my CONTACT PAGE and I’ll be happy to discuss with you!

It’s Late On Friday, Do You Know Where Your Data Is?

Stop right now and ask yourself this question … if your machine were to go up in smoke right this second would you know where all your data is?

© Brian Jackson - Fotolia

© Brian Jackson – Fotolia

Let’s begin by asking this question another way …

If you were to close the lid on your laptop or turn off your PC right now, do you have another way of getting access to all the data and files that are important to you?

You can begin by asking yourself the following types of questions!

E-Mail : Is your email just downloaded to your computer only? Or is it cloud based account?

Photos : Are all your photos sitting on just your computer only ? Are they also backed up somewhere?

Music : Is all your digital music sitting in iTunes or some other media player?

Documents and Files : Do all these files just live on your computer ? Are they also sitting in a cloud based file sharing service of some sort?

In the end I see it as a real balance between security and convenience

I work in a model where I have backups of everything but I also operate in a model where all of the files and email I work with are also sitting in the cloud … so … I have the “security” of having backups everything plus the “convenience” of having everything in the cloud so I can get at it from either my laptop or any of my mobile devices.

Other people may not need that kind of fluid access at all times and may choose to simply have a single machine and a system of backups for safeguarding their items.

You can systematically move through all the different major areas listed above (E-Mail, Photos, Music, Documents and Files) and go through this simple exercise. Turn the computer off and write out on a piece of paper “exactly” how you would go about getting access to all these items with your computer not being available!

If you can’t, with 100% certainty, answer the question of what you would do to get access to your files and data in this situation then it’s time to make a change and add some “peace of mind” to your life!

Please leave a comment below or, if you have questions or concerns about this with your own technology environment then feel free to reach out using any of the methods on my contact page and I’d be happy to interact with you!

Is Your Data Safe And Could You Recover?

“You’re dreading getting the phone call from the office … the call that says the server is down and not restarting … if that call “does” come do you relax because you know you’re covered and you have a plan or do serious questions get raised in your head because you’re not quite sure?”

© z_amir - Fotolia

© z_amir – Fotolia

If you can’t walk away from the question above with a big thumbs up then you need to be asking this question of your IT Team now. You’re not accusing them of “not” taking care of things, you are merely being a wise business owner by asking them the following questions :

  • What if the server went down today and was physically not able to start up? What then?
  • How are we storing our backups and have those backups been tested for availability?
  • How much data are we actually saving and how far back could we restore if needed?
  • If we had a total loss situation at the head office is our data being stored securely offsite and is it easily retrievable?
  • Do we have the ability to quickly get our server back up and running in a timely fashion?

It’s all about you, the business owner, being able to have the “peace of mind” that this critical function in your organization is taken care of so you can mentally check this off your list.

With major items like this it’s “always” better to have this conversation from a position of strength, when there isn’t a disaster and you’re allowed to look at things objectively, as opposed to being in the middle of a disaster and it quickly becomes a recovery mission and everyone is running around in a panic.

There are few incredibly significant steps you can take as an organization to have complete and total “peace of mind” in this area …

Step #1 : Have your IT Service Provider answer the following questions in a report:

  • How often are backups taken?
  • How much backup data is being stored at any one given time?
  • Where is onsite backup data stored?
  • Is the success/failure of backups being monitored on a daily basis?

Step #2 : Have your IT Service Provider test the viability of restoring random pieces of data from a backup at least once a month as part of a regular monthly service and maintenance routine and report on the success/failure of that to you automatically.

Step #3 : Have your IT Service Provider provide explanations of what plan they would execute in the event that one of the following scenarios were to happen

  • Normal File Loss : Someone loses a basic document or spreadsheet or database.
  • Server Crippled : Server goes down but is repairable and business interruption occurs.
  • Server Fatal : Server goes down and stays down and is not repairable and business interruption occurs.
  • Site Fatal : There is a total loss of the site business office itself, server and networking equipment included and the office needed to be temporarily/permanently relocated.

It’s all about you as a business owner being able to free your mind and have “peace of mind” knowing that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, your business data is safe, secure and easily retrievable in case of emergency … simple as that!