For many enterprises, the popularity of cloud computing and managed services has been a boon to budgets and resources, since it can reduce IT staff workload (or even the department’s size) and provide data storage at a fairly low price. But as some are finding, the decentralization of IT resources can get tricky when it comes to disaster relief.
“When something goes wrong, it can take time to really get to the source of the problem, and it’s even more challenging if no one ends up taking responsibility,” says Bonnie Harris, owner of St. Paul-based Wax Marketing. Recently, she had trouble accessing some company data, and didn’t know if the problem was with the ISP (Internet service provider), the cloud-based data storage firm she utilized, or even with her laptop.
She adds, “The issue allowed me to see how many moving parts there were in my technology strategy, and how there were some gaps I needed to address.”
Although disaster prevention is key to making sure that data is protected and systems remain operational, not every scenario can be anticipated. With that in mind, here are some tips for dealing with glitches:
Take a global view
Many enterprises utilize several types of hardware, including laptops and mobile devices as well as servers, VPNs, and even flash drives. Added to that mix are software applications, data storage suites, web services, software-as-a-service providers, mobile apps and VoIP phone systems. Adding yet another layer can be free applications like conferencing services, photo sharing, calendar programs, personal backup options and social media apps. Feeling overwhelmed yet?
Technology touches nearly every part of your business, and the overwhelming amount of overlap means that if something goes awry in one part of a system, it can affect other, seemingly unrelated systems.
When disaster strikes, having a grasp of this technology web can be helpful. Most likely, you may need to bring in professional help (like your ISP or an IT consultancy) if a security scan and anti-virus sweep don’t solve the issue; when help arrives, be prepared by jotting down a list of all the types of software, devices and hardware used by the enterprise.
In terms of prevention: run through a disaster drill, even if it’s only mentally. If all the systems at your company went down, and your IT guru was unreachable, what would be your first step? Keep phone numbers handy for hardware support of machines like desktops, servers and even web-enabled photocopiers. Your (offline) phone list should also include 24-hour support numbers for your ISP, storage provider, cloud provider, web hosting firm, software providers and device manufacturers. Although some issues may turn you into a digital detective to locate the problem, connecting with support services should put you on the path to recovery.
Understand your storage
When something goes wrong, make sure your data is safe by calling the service provider and letting them know that disaster recovery may need to be utilized. Every data storage firm has safeguards in place and will work with you to get your data back up quickly. Matthew Price, an account executive at Eagan-based managed technology firm Netrix IT, says: “There are so many variables when it comes to backup that you don’t want to go it alone.”
Although it’s tempting to keep buying more storage capacity and putting data in multiple locations, it can be safer to unify a data storage strategy with just one vendor. Choose a reputable company that can not only store your data off-site, but also aid with recovery options, if necessary.
Wipe your devices
Strong passwords and encryption technology can be helpful for keeping laptops, smartphones and tablet computers safe, but when these devices get lost or stolen, you may want to consider an added boost of protection: killing the systems.
Some enterprises install a “kill switch” program on every device that deletes files remotely. The only catch is that the thief has to connect to the Internet in order for the data to get wiped, but if the device is sold on the open market (which is likely), all you have to do for data deletion is to be patient.
“The idea of wiping out data in this way has gained momentum because even if the thief might not be interested in the data on the device, the second or third owner down the line might be,” says Cam Roberson, director of marketing at Beachhead Solutions, a San Francisco-based developer of data destruction and encryption products.
He adds that even if data wiping is not an option, an enterprise can protect its devices by setting up a “self-destruct mode” based on preset rules. For example, if there are three unsuccessful login attempts, the device will be triggered to destroy all the data.
Elizabeth Millard writes about technology. Formerly senior editor at ComputerUser, her work has appeared in Business 2.0, eWeek, Linux Magazine and TechNewsWorld.