The more traditional way of configuring a small business IT environment has changed. Previously it mattered little what type of business you had, whether professional services, retail or manufacturing; you needed an on-site server, workstations and printers. All of your data was stored on your server, including e-mail, line-of-business applications and business data. This meant that it was necessary to implement and manage robust backup and disaster recovery solutions to ensure that in the event of a system failure, data loss and down-time was minimized.
The more businesses utilize cloud technology they begin to realize distinct, measurable, advantages. The most obvious of which are, lower upfront costs and lower maintenance and support costs. Cloud solutions usually provide their users with more peace of mind as the onus of data backup and disaster recovery falls to the provider, this is a major benefit to businesses; they no longer have to invest in expensive solutions and managers have one less thing to worry about.
Regardless of the type of IT environment you have, whether you have an onsite server, all of your data resides in the cloud, or you have a mix of both (which is more likely) there are a few things you can do to minimize downtime if something goes awry, and it will.
1. Power Up
Make sure your critical equipment (servers, switches, routers, firewalls, modems etc.) are connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS or battery backup). While you may not experience power failures often, you’ll be glad you have one when you do. UPS’s generally also provide line conditioning and/or surge protection for your devices depending on the model. Additionally, if you have a fluctuation or brown out the UPS will prevent all of your devices from having to reboot which can be ten minute process in some cases. If your budget can handle it, make sure that all of your desktops have UPS’s as well, laptops are already good to go because they already have a battery if they lose power for some reason.
2. Double Down
It never hurts to have another backup. If you have an onsite server, you should already have a good backup solution that is backing up data both onsite and online. The onsite backup is key to getting back up and running quickly in the event of a system failure and even if the disaster is that the CEO accidentally deleted the acquisition proposal he was working on, having a backup that can be easily accessed locally is a must. If your company primarily uses cloud solutions then you should absolutely have a local copy of your data. Most cloud storage providers do this automatically for you by syncing data between the cloud and your local machine. For cloud based applications however you may not have many options to back up your data; some providers allow you to keep a copy of your data on another cloud service for peace of mind but other than that you may want to make use of your providers export feature ever so often, just in case.
3. Reuse, Recycle
We suggest to all of our clients that they keep at least one spare PC or laptop around the office because you never know when one is going to fail. If you have the budget you should be replacing your desktops every three to five years but if that’s not possible and your using your PC’s until they break then you need to have one or two spares. There has been quite a few times where we’ve had to setup that spare PC for user while we troubleshoot and fix their desktop. They were able to keep working while we got their PC up an running again. You don’t need to buy a spare PC but rather keep a few around from your last upgrade, if you upgrade you PC’s at the same time then you have the added benefit of being able to reuse parts as components fail.
4. Cloud Caveat
I’ve already mentioned a few advantages of the cloud but there’s one disadvantage that especially effects users of SaaS (Software as a Service) more than users with local line-of-business applications: Internet Access. Your software and data may be only one website away but without internet, every stops. The way most businesses work today, whether you have you data on a local server or in the cloud, not much can be done without internet access.
It may be a good idea to invest in a backup/secondary internet connection, so that in the event that your primary ISP’s connection goes down your business can continue to function with minimal interruption. You may need to invest in a more robust firewall or routing device that can handle multiple internet connections. Alternatively if your team (or office) is small enough, mobile hotspot device may be enough to get you through those tough spots.