Helping clients manage their technology for over 30 years.

2 tricks that can deliver the right service provider treats

It’s a 21st-century truth that even small businesses need complex information technology infrastructures to thrive. Which is why so many enterprises, both large and small, depend on the expertise of independent providers of managed and cloud services.

But using managed and cloud services can be risky, too. How reliable is the service? Where’s your data? And what about security?

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6 security questions to ask about your data and who gets access to it

It’s easy to tumble backwards into information security, to let yourself get sidetracked into arcane, hard-to-follow discussions about the innards of technologies and products when in fact you need to be thinking through higher-level strategy and policy.

If, for instance, you don’t actually know yet whether your business would benefit from using encryption, listening to the sales pitches of competing encryption product vendors is a waste of time.

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Security that works starts with the right business decisions

Effective information security is gravity-fed: It starts at the top and works its way down, always beginning with a strategy explicitly designed to protect business value. That strategy then gets implemented via an over-arching security policy or plan.

Developing information security strategy and policy centers on making the right business decisions. Once you do that, what seems the most daunting part of information security — choosing the appropriate technologies — becomes much more transparent.

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What happens when disaster strikes the DR guys?

Traffic sign indicating disaster

It was a stormy Wednesday morning commute with intense wind and driving rain, when a driver lost control of her car, struck a utility pole and ultimately caused eight to fall all along the road in front of the Quest building. The power went out, and live wires and downed transformers blocked traffic. Everyone in the office was trapped.

This wasn’t a “major” event — not the kind of incident we typically think of when we talk disaster. Yet even something this mundane could have put our company completely out of operation for at least several days.

We executed our own disaster recovery plan

As a Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity services provider for scores of clients, Quest was better positioned than most companies to handle just such a disruption.

Initially, battery and generator backup provided phone and Internet capabilities. By utilizing resources at several other locations, Quest was able to continue functioning until they got the all-clear to evacuate, and fortunately no one was injured — that’s when we began executing on Quest’s own Disaster Recovery procedures.

By three o’clock the same afternoon we were fully operational at remote locations, with some of our staff at our Business Resumption Center and others working from home. Customer service calls, billing, email, phones — everything we needed to keep functioning was operational.

No operational disruptions

For the Quest team, the event was an unqualified success—not a drill, but the real deal providing employees with a window to what the company does for clients. As for Quest customers, they didn’t experience any difference in service.

There’s nothing Quest could do before that we can’t do now. That’s precisely why we have Disaster Recovery capability.

If you never drill, it’s just theory

“Part of the success of the plan’s execution,” says Quest CTO, Mike Dillon, “came from disaster recovery drills, which Quest does quarterly.”

“Drills make a huge difference — we already knew what we needed for our critical systems to function,” explains Mike. “If you never drill, it’s just theory. Every drill we do teaches us something, makes us smarter about our own operations, and smarter about the operations of our clients.”

Quest’s disaster recovery experience is a big advantage for clients. Most companies, even those with a plan, don’t take disaster recovery drills seriously. Even for those that do, the disaster will still be a first-time event. Our business is helping companies, including our own, recover from disasters. Our clients have that experience to lean on.

Be prepared for the mundane and the catastrophic

Every event, real or drill, is a learning experience. It’s a sentiment shared by Quest COO Kathy Campbell. “One of our ah-ha moments came when we had to address some issues that occurred at the corporate office during our absence —no power to the employee refrigerators and freezers, and no one in the office to feed the fish. Continuing our business operations at a remote site turned out to be the easy part.” And it allowed the city, county, and power company to do their clean up for as long as necessary

Reflecting on lessons learned, I put a priority on keeping all staff up to date about what’s happening. The need-to-know rule applies to everyone in your organization. My primary take-away? Even little disasters can have a huge impact. You need to be as prepared for a mundane disruption as you are for a catastrophic one.

Downed telephone poles in front of the Quest office

How cloud computing and VoIP make IT disruption avoidance easier — and less costly

Nobody stays in business long if their business-critical data and apps are lost. So pardon me if I sound like my replay button got stuck, but I’ll say it again: make sure your critical data and apps are replicated to a secure remote environment that’s always accessible from anywhere.

You’re at least halfway there if you’re using a cloud-based backup replication service — but, of course, you need to make sure you’re dealing with a provider with a secure, scalable, fail-safe environment and plenty of flexibility when it comes to service options.

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Step 2 to mastering business IT disruptions — continued: The 3-part path to implementing cost-effective disruption recovery solutions

Before you can implement the best disruption recovery solutions, you have to know what they are. This entails a three-part process that requires business continuity/disaster recovery expertise:

  1. Figure out the minimum applications and data necessary to sustain your business and the timeframe(s) within which your necessary apps and data must be restored. How long, for example, can you function without email? How long can you make it without voice communications?
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Step 2 to mastering business IT disruptions: Include employees in your planning

By definition, no event that interrupts your organization’s operations is trivial, so your plan should address all emergencies that could disrupt your business.

This requires some serious thinking about how your business works, which you can’t accomplish without your employees. Their cooperation can be inspired with the reminder that if a disruption puts the business at risk, their jobs are at risk, too. Your disruption-avoidance planning should:
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Step 1 to mastering business IT disruptions: Back up your data — NOW!

If you haven’t already done it, don’t delay. Back up your organization’s critical information and files to a secure remote location from which they can be recovered online 24/7. Here’s what’s involved:

  • Know about your data (as well as those applications that may be difficult to reconstruct should you lose them) — what you have, where it is, who “owns” it, how important it is. And don’t forget email.
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Introducing the 4 steps that can mitigate IT disruptions and save your business

Your organization’s ability to thrive depends on resilient information technology and data that’s available 24/7. You certainly can’t afford unanticipated downtime, a sustained system disruption, or losing your data forever.

Even comparatively brief disruptions wreck employee productivity and the ability to communicate with customers. And 60% of companies that suffer permanent data loss end up shutting down within six months.

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Three ways you know you’re caught in the IT Product Trap

The Product Trap. That’s where your IT guys and their product vendor buddies come to you with a neat little story about how this here latest-and-greatest gizmo should be deployed company-wide because it’ll save a gazillion dollars. Except that…

  1. They don’t have meaningful data or metrics to back up the claim.
  2. They neglect to mention that making it actually work in the real world requires significant changes to a raft of related processes and organizational structures.
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