Its time to check your DR strategy

Here are some scenarios that will make you want to run and check your Disaster Recovery strategy. 

Ignorance is bliss and at some point in life you’ll have said to yourself ‘that won’t happen to me’. Usually the consequences of these things actually happening are minimal, but for businesses, losing all your data can be catastrophic.

For those who do decide to leave it to chance, just remember that according to Axa, “80 of businesses affected by a major incident either never re-open or close within 18 months.”

If that hasn’t worried you enough, here are some every day Disaster Recovery scenarios and GIFs that will make you want to review your business continuity plans, right now.

1. The frozen laptop

 

We’ve all experienced this. Your final presentation is due in 10 minutes, you’re about to hit the save button when your laptop freezes and isn’t responding! You click on the screen, grumble and pray it starts working again.

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5 minutes later, IT support is just as confused as you are and you’re faced with taking the battery out. You do it while praying that it’s not a hardware issue, meaning you’ve lost everything… argh.

How could you avoid this? Well, you could continuously back up your data and store it on the cloud. You wouldn’t have to worry yourself over a frozen laptop when you can access the presentation on your phone, iPad or PC.

 

2. Human error

 

“OK Bob, we’re half way through the office move now. We’ll just leave this server here and go grab some lunch.”

“Are you sure that’s OK Barry? There’s all the business reports for the last financial year on there.”

“Of course, what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

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Unfortunately you have to think about that one accident prone member of staff. Yes, you know the one that acts as an EMP, manages to trip over nothing and drop a hot cup of coffee all over a server.

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For a start, check there permissions. Can they delete ALL your shared company files and stop everyone working? (Yes, that’s a true story we’ve come across).

A strong Disaster Recovery plan would account for a range of incidents, so even if they do drop their laptop out of the window you can rest assured they can access their data anywhere.

3. Natural disasters

 

It’s not just IT glitches and failures that you have to worry about… it may seem a little far-fetched for Mother Nature to cause you to invoke a Disaster Recovery plan, but it happens more than you think.

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From fires, heavy snow and floods, for a DR plan to be effective you need to make sure your data is stored in more than one location. That way if a flood does destroy your main office location, you’ve still got all your information secured in a data centre 500 miles away and your employees can still be operational.

 

4. Dependency on one person

 

What happens when one of your staff members is unavailable? Sometimes Dave, your favourite IT guy can’t come to your rescue, no matter how hard he tries. You need to make sure your business always has a contingency plan in place, particularly if Dave goes on holiday.

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It’s vital that you have more than one person that understands how your IT systems are structured and how your disaster recovery plan works. It may seem like an obvious point, but especially for SME’s this is often overlooked.

 

Stressed or concerned?

 

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Don’t worry, you don’t have to be.

We can create a custom disaster recovery solution that fits around your business, just give us a call today or visit www.RaaSexperts.co.uk for more information.

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It’s time to review your Disaster Recovery communications plan

The most frequently overlooked part of any Disaster Recovery strategy is the management of public and employee communication.

If there’s no plan in place, not only could your business lose customers and tarnish its reputation, but it could also unknowingly cause widespread panic.

Tech Republic has recently published a fantastic example of this, where a local bank lost Disaster Recoverypower due to a storm that damaged internal computer systems. One bank teller managed to cause mass chaos for the bank after telling a customer that they didn’t know when the systems would be back up and running and that they seriously doubted that customers would be able to access their money any time soon.

Consequently, this information was published as a statement in the local newspaper the next day and caused hundreds of frantic customers to call the bank in a panic, tarnishing their solid reputation.

A DR plan is vital to any company, but as your IT department restores its systems and data back to full health, how can the business prevent any communication disasters?

Internal spokesperson

Needless to say, if your staff can’t access important information then they’re going to be concerned. It’s imperative that all staff members are kept in the loop with what’s happening, so they don’t start panicking or jumping to conclusions. Likewise, they should also be asked not to discuss the situation with anyone external to the company until it is over.

One of the best ways to achieve and manage this is through appointing an internal spokesperson, usually a manager, to act as a point of contact with the main team resolving the issue. Group emails or old fashioned call trees are great examples of how to keep everyone on the same page and prevent needless stress or concern.

Appoint an external communications team

One effective way to avoid Chinese whispers getting in the media and company shareholders is to appoint a dedicated external communications manager. Typically someone with experience in marketing or the Managing Director of the company. The business needs first to establish all the facts, enabling the communications team to work out the best approach to take to alleviate concerns. Often simply knowing that a DR effort is underway can help calm concerns. This could have certainly prevented hundreds of customers calling the bank.

Incorporate communications into your Disaster Recovery plan

This communications plan should be established throughout the business. Yes, it’s vital to restore data and the business back to normality as quickly as possible, but in order to protect its reputation, communications must also be managed.

If you’d like more information on how to create an effective Disaster Recovery plan contact a member of the team on 03453 888 327 or email enquiries@virtualdcs.co.uk

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Could your backup strategy survive a cyber attack?

As Ransomware becomes increasingly sophisticated, IT managers are being forced to rethink their backup strategies.

Ransomware is currently one of the biggest threats to businesses, and last year 72% of companies surveyed by the Australian government had experienced a Ransomware incident in some form.

What is Ransomware?

backup strategyAs we’ve discussed in earlier blogs, Ransomware is a type of malicious software that once downloaded on to a user system, will spread and encrypt every file within reach. Once the encryption is complete, the business or user will receive a warning that if they don’t pay a specified amount of money, in a certain time frame, their data will be deleted.  The latest versions of these applications have also been rumoured to store personal information gathered from hard drives, in an effort to acquire more money at a later date through phishing attempts and fraud.

I have a backup strategy, so is my business protected?

Many IT managers believe that if they have a backup of their business information stored in a separate location, they are completely protected from Ransomware applications. Unfortunately this isn’t true if their backups are completed by a network attached drive.

If a platform was to be replicated to a secondary data store through a network attached drive, the information would be protected against a physical incident or hardware disaster, but not from Ransomware. The virus would simply travel down the network line to the backup server and begin to encrypt all backups, as well as live data.

How can I protect my backups?

Version roll backs are the key to protecting your information as you can access previously amended documents.

If possible, make sure that you can roll back more than one file at a time. Unfortunately, there are support teams currently rolling back files one by one, so to ensure a speedy recovery you need to look into roll back features.

If you’d like to speak to a disaster recovery expert about how you can protect your business, call 03453 888 327.

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Why do you need a Disaster Recovery plan?

Whether your business is in retail, manufacturing or healthcare, companies have never been more connected, or vulnerable.

Many businesses fail to put a strong Disaster Recovery plan in place. Whether at the hands of natural disasters, cyber-attacks or human error – data loss is costly and risky. A strong DR plan would help mitigate common business risks, including:

The impact of cyber attacks

Disaster RecoveryAs cloud computing grows and more business data is migrated online, cyber criminals are increasing their efforts to breach business defences. Over the last five years there has been a massive surge in malware and phishing attempts, such as CryptoLocker, which have been solely focused on businesses.

Natural disaster protection

From floods, fires and tornadoes, all over the world there are a number of uncontrollable circumstances which can ultimately destroy business data and cause your business to experience downtime and lose money.

A Disaster Recovery plan won’t prevent the natural disaster from occurring, but it can ensure that the business is back up and running again as soon as possible.

IT disaster

Unfortunately, no matter how much time you invest in putting together a secure, always available solution, there is no guarantee it will work 100% of the time. From employee mistakes to disk failure, your business needs to have a strong Disaster Recovery solution in place to mitigate any business downtime.

For example, if you own a retail business and an employee damages a server, would your business still be able to complete shop transactions? If there’s no Disaster Recovery solution in place, the stores could be closed for days. With a Disaster Recovery solution the systems could be back up and running within minutes.

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Protecting Yorkshire against Cybercrime

Richard May is speaking at the first ever ‘Yorkshire Cyber Security Event’ on Thursday 12th May.

YCCCThe free educational event is open to businesses of all sizes, providing a starting point to protecting and preventing data loss in organisations. Taking place at 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in Huddersfield, Richard will be holding a seminar on how organisations can retrieve and protect data should an IT incident occur.

With roundtable discussions and a 1:1 advice drop-in centre on offer throughout the day, attendees will be able to utilise the knowledge of some of the region’s finest minds in cyber security. Seminars will talk through fundamental information security topics such as cloud security, human error breaches, immediate protections and much more.

Melanie Oldham, the Chair of the Yorkshire Cyber Security Cluster said: “We are incredibly excited to have Richard May speaking at the Yorkshire Cyber Security Event. His expertise in disaster recovery will be vital to the delegates because while we hope to avoid all data breaches, it is important for organisations to know what to do if disaster strikes.”

To sign up to the even visit http://cybersecurityevent2016.eventbrite.co.uk/

About virtualDCS

As the world’s first VMware Enterprise Service Provider, virtualDCS has pioneered the development of the cloud computing industry since its conception.

Specialising in highly secure Disaster Recovery, Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service solutions, virtualDCS’ approach is to ethically work in partnership with clients, ensuring that their infrastructure is ready to exceed the service levels demanded by their business.

For further information on virtualDCS call +44 (0) 3453 888 327 or email enquiries@virtualdcs.co.uk.

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DeepMind gains access to UK patient records

DeepMind, Google’s artificial intelligence division, has now been given access to an estimated 1.6 million NHS patient records as part of its research.

Google has stated it will use the data in order to develop an early warning system application, called Stream, for patients who are at risk of developing acute kidney injuries. According to NHS reports, acute Kidney injuries contribute up to 20% of emergency hospital admissions. DeepMind intends to use this information to alert doctors when someone is at risk of developing the condition.

DeepmindMany people are concerned that the data sharing agreement includes full names, along with patient medical history. ‘New Scientist’ stated “The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust – Barnet, Chase Far, and the Royal Free – each year.

This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years.”

Critics have also questioned why Google needs the data of all patients to create the application. “The big question is why they want it. This a very rich data set. If you are someone who went to the A&E department, why is your data in this?” Asked Sam Smith, a co-ordinator of patient data campaign group MedConfidential.

Google says that since there is no separate dataset for people with kidney conditions, it needs access to all of the data in order to run Streams effectively. In a statement, the Royal Free NHS Trust says that it “provides DeepMind with NHS patient data in accordance with strict information governance rules and for the purpose of direct clinical care only.”

It is currently believed that doctors at the Royal Free approached Google about developing the system. Google has not ruled out the use of data for other purposes, but has stated that it will only be used for improving healthcare needs and will never be linked to other Google accounts or products.

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Online software can help Florists blossom

At this stage in the cloud computing timeline, it’s clear that Software as a Service (SaaS) technology is a vital computing and business tool for organisations across a number of industries.

In light of recent statistics, it’s safe to say that SaaS is here to stay. With an estimated growth rate of 18.3%, IDC predicts that the cloud software market will surpass $112.8bn by 2019.

One growing business sector that is rarely mentioned in cooperation with cloud technology is Floristry, when in fact this area is one which could benefit from accessing software online the most.

So, why SaaS for Florists?

FloristIt’s hard to think of any business where its employees would not benefit from having access to universal information at anytime, anywhere. When delivering orders or visiting a supplier, a Florist would benefit from being able to have up to date information on what products need ordering and the status of each order. If everything is stored in one location, the company never has to take anything to chance. Gone are the days of writing gift card messages down on paper. Everyone has access to the latest information all stored in one place.

Does your flower shop do any marketing? As information is stored and accessed through the application, it’s simple to generate customer databases for marketing purposes. For example, the flower shop could easily send out a promotion on Valentines Day Roses to every existing customer by generating a list of all their emails.

These benefits above have been condensed from some of the few existing SaaS applications on the market. However, many Florists have created their own internal software applications to combat these requirements.

If you are one of these businesses and would like to make money while sharing your application with other Florists, then contact a member of virtualDCS.

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123-reg deletes customer websites

The website hosting firm 123-reg, which currently supports 1.7 million websites throughout the UK, has accidentally deleted a number of its customers’ websites while undergoing server maintenance.

According to reports it’s not yet clear how many websites have been deleted during the incident, with the firm stating that: “We can conclude that the issues faced have resulted in some data loss for some customers,” the firm admitted and that the fault was limited to 67 servers out of 115,000 across Europe.

123-reg123-reg has now started a recovery process, however it is still advising customers, which are lucky enough to have their own backup data, to rebuild their own websites. The company exclusively told the BBC that it did not have a backup copy of all its customers’ data, but was working with a data recovery specialist to “manage the process of restoration”.

“Our VPS product is an unmanaged service and we always recommend that customers implement backups to safeguard against unexpected issues,” the company said.

“Customers who had purchased 123-reg backups can be online now. Many of our customers keep their own backups.”

Meanwhile, many of 123-Reg’s customers have taken to social media to vent their frustrations and express concerns about the long term damage this issue would have on their business.

Incidents like these highlight the importance of having a comprehensive Disaster Recovery plan in place.

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Google apologises for latest cloud outage

On Monday, Google’s cloud services went offline, leaving customers unable to access services for 18 minutes.

Google has now announced that it will refund its affected customers in credits for the problem, after investigations confirmed that the issue was caused by Google engineers performing a network update to their systems.

googleIn the recent company statement, Benjamin Treynor Sloss, Vice President of Engineering for the corporation, stated that the issue was not at risk of being repeated, explaining that:

“[I]nbound internet traffic to Compute Engine instances was not routed correctly, resulting in dropped connections and an inability to reconnect.

The loss of inbound traffic caused services depending on this network path to fail as well, including VPNs and L3 network load balancers. Additionally, the Cloud VPN offering in the asia-east1 region experienced the same traffic loss starting at an earlier time of 18:14 Pacific Time but the same end time of 19:27.”

The issue didn’t affect the Google App engine, Cloud storage and other Cloud platform products. The statement continued:

“It is our intent to enumerate all the lessons we can learn from this event, and then to implement all of the changes which appear useful. As of the time of this writing in the evening of 12 April, there are already 14 distinct engineering changes planned spanning prevention, detection and mitigation, and that number will increase as our engineering teams review the incident with other senior engineers across Google in the coming week.”

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New Ransomware scam uncovered

A new widely distributed scam email, that quotes recipient’s postal address, has now been linked to a dangerous form of Ransomware called Maktub.

RansomwareAndrew Brandt from the security firm Blue Coat, exclusively contacted the BBC to discuss his findings after listening to a Radio 4 programme discussing the phishing scam. After investigating the scam further, he confirmed that the emails were linked to form of Ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malware which encrypts victim’s files, demanding a ransom to be paid before they can be unlocked and retrieved once more.

Phishing

The original phishing email told the recipients that they owed money to UK businesses, when opening the invoice file attached the Ransomware was then installed on the system. Unlike other Ransomware on the market, Maktub increases the fee due to be paid as time proceeds.

“It’s incredibly fast and by the time the warning message had appeared on the screen it had already encrypted everything of value on the hard drive – it happens in seconds,” Mr Brandt told the BBC.

“This is the desktop version of a smash and grab – they want a quick payoff.”

Personal information

One uncommon and worrying feature within the scam email was the fact that cyber criminals managed to include the victim’s name and postal address. Experts believe that the information could have come from a number of leaked sources, but it adds legitimacy to the original claim of the recipient owing money.

This shows the importance of having a strong Disaster recovery plan in place, as cyber criminals find new and innovative ways to trick recipients into revealing data, more businesses are at risk each day.

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