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What to Look for in a Work Computer

Short answer: the features that you need in a computer largely depend on the type of work that you do.

An architect who wants to generate 3D renderings of buildings, for instance, will need more processing power than a writer who simply wants to browse the internet and store Word files.

Although different professionals need unique features from their computers, there are some key items that you can look for when choosing a work computer.

The following guide will help you decide which features you need for your profession.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

A computer’s central processing unit (CPU) is one of its most essential parts. The CPU handles all of the instructions that software gives the computer. Without a good CPU, you’ll find that your work computer operates at a frustratingly slow pace.

At minimum, you want to find a computer with a dual-core CPU with a 2.5GHz speed. A dual-core CPU lets your computer focus on two operations simultaneously, so it comes in handy even if you just want to perform research online while taking notes on word processing software.

Related: Title Fight: Break/Fix vs. Managed IT Services

Today, many CPUs have four or eight cores, which makes them useful for analyzing large amounts of data and running multiple applications at the same time. AMD even makes a 16-core processor with an incredible speed of 4.0GHz.

Very few people need that much power, though.

You should only consider it if you make video games, edit HD video or perform other intensive tasks. The 16-core processor’s $950 price tag will keep most people away from this option.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

A computer’s random access memory (RAM) is nearly as important as its CPU. When your computer has an application or file open, it relies on RAM to store information. For instance, when you make changes to a Word document and save the file, the request happens with RAM before it gets sent to the computer’s hard drive.

Most people need 8GB of RAM for their work computers. If you need exceptional processing speed for video production, editing music or rendering graphics, then you should look for a computer with 16GB of RAM.

Hard Drive Storage Space

Computers store all of their long-term information in their hard drives. The amount of hard drive storage space that you have will define how many applications and files you can keep on your computer.

Related: 3 Types of Clouds: Which is Right for You?

The most important aspect of choosing a hard drive is knowing how much space you need for your operating system (OS) and software. If you primarily rely on cloud applications, then you may not need more than 16GB of storage. If you plan to use software stored on your computer, though, then you should look for a hard drive with at least 232GB of storage space.

Most people don’t need to worry too much about storing files on their work computers. If you ever run out of room on your computer, you can always use an external hard drive. You can buy an external hard drive with 4TB of space for about $200. Remember, though, that you still need enough room on your computer’s hard drive for your OS and software. You can run software from an external hard drive, but doing so often leads to poor performance that will make you inefficient.

Graphics Cards

If you work on video production, image rendering and other highly visual projects, then you should get a computer with a dedicated graphics card. The graphics card will handle much of the processing power needed to create and display your images.

Very few people, however, need additional graphics adapters. Most of today’s computers come with integrated graphics adapters that exceed work needs.

Trouble Choosing Workstations for Business?

Choosing a new work computer can feel like a challenging task. Once you know how you plan to use your computer, though, it becomes much easier to decide what features to look for while you browse your options.

It’s even more difficult when you consider that you’ll have to choose a machine that works for your entire office. Or, having to mix-and-match ones that work for people with different skillsets.

We’re here to help you keep your business running with the right technology. For any questions on the right computers, reach out to us. We’re happy to help.

How to Create the Perfect BDR Plan

Disasters come in many forms. From cyberattacks to hardware malfunctions, many things can end up taking down the network. Your perfect BDR plan prepares your business for these possibilities.

With a plan in place, everyone will know exactly what to do, you’ll know of the resources on hand, and who they should contact in the emergency. You don’t have a way to guarantee that a disaster never strikes, but the right BDR plan can minimize the impact and risk of the situation.

Start With the Vital Functions of Your Business

Your organization doesn’t need every single system recovered before you can resume operations. Look at the business processes and the infrastructure to see how much needs to come back up before you can resume limited operations.

This bare minimum baseline gives you a target for the recovery process.

Prioritize all of your business processes and systems similarly. It might take some time to get everything running again, but everyone will end up being able to get at least some work done during the process.

List the Available Resources for Disaster Recovery

What resources do you have access to help before, during and after the disaster?

Many of the tools and techniques require specialized knowledge, with a lot of the effort falling on your IT department. Emergency management personnel also play a key role in this process, but you may want to consider keeping a managed services provider on-hand for extra assistance during this stressful period.

Related: How the Cloud Fits Your Business

Keep the BDR budget in mind as well. You can’t schedule the perfect time for a disaster, so you have to account for the increased prices of urgent purchases.

Develop a Business Impact Report

It’s not enough to know that a disaster will negatively affect your business. You need a data-driven report that will explain exactly what gets impacted during various types of emergencies. This report acts as another prioritization tool, as you can address the areas that lose the most money during unexpected downtime first.

Related: Hurricane Harvey and Other Disasters: Why Your Business Needs a BDR Plan

Create a Communication Chain of Command

Miscommunication can lead to a slower recovery process. Everyone involved in the disaster recovery team should know who they need to contact and when. Have backup contacts for each step, so no one misses out on key information. Some disaster recovery and emergency management solutions can automate notifications and information sharing in these situations.

Test and Implement Disaster Recovery Solutions

Your BDR plan may look great on paper, but that doesn’t mean much when you try to restore a backup and it doesn’t have half the data you expect it to. When you implement disaster recovery solutions, have regularly scheduled tests and drills that run everyone through the complete process.

Related: How to Prepare Your Business for Unexpected Disasters

Not only do you ensure that the backups and other solutions work properly, but you also get staff members used to what they should be doing in a time-sensitive emergency.

Frequently Evaluate Your BDR Plan

The BDR plan that you use when your company first started out may not be suitable for your changing business needs a decade later. Review your BDR plan on a regular basis to ensure that recovery priorities are correct and all of the information is up to date. If you add new disaster recovery solutions, update the policies and procedures to account for that.

Did You Know? 21% of small-business owners without a written disaster plan said they don’t have one because it’s not a high priority for them.

Add in a review period following disasters so you can collect feedback and make any changes necessary to the current plan. You don’t want the same problem area coming up each time there’s unexpected downtime.

Disasters may come your company’s way throughout the years, but a strong BDR plan means that you’re ready to minimize the downtime.

Talk to GB Tech

When it comes to planning for disaster recovery, it’s best to plan well in advance. You should trust an expert in backup and disaster recovery to help you create a seamless plan for your business.

Questions? Reach out to us today, and we’ll have all the answers you’ll need.

Your Quick-Start Web Application Security Checklist

When building a web application, keeping the data of you and your customers secure should be high on your list of priorities.

Unfortunately, not all web developers know about the best practices for cybersecurity — and if they do, they may not be bothered enough to spend time implementing them. According to recent surveys, 94% of web applications have at least one high-severity vulnerability, and 25% of them are susceptible to eight of the top 10 security flaws.

Leaving these vulnerabilities unpatched not only exposes your customers’ sensitive information, it puts your business at serious legal, financial and reputational risk.

For these reasons, developers need to pay close attention to the security of their websites.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the 6 most important factors that you should take into account when practicing secure web development.

1. Authentication and Passwords

Most websites use passwords to differentiate user accounts, but not all of them do so securely. Test your application’s password change and reset functionality, and make sure that all passwords are sufficiently long and complex.

Related: Why Secure Application Development Is a Necessity

Consider using measures such as CAPTCHA and multi-factor authentication. These make it more difficult for hackers to brute-force their way in and use stolen passwords.

2. Authorization

Once users have logged in, you must make sure that they are prevented from accessing unauthorized data and files. For example, users should not be able to view an unauthorized web page simply by entering it into the browser.

Make sure that sessions expire after a period of time. Also be sure that your website’s cookies are set only for the appropriate domains.

3. Secure Transmission

SSL certificates are how websites create a secure connection between the website’s server and the user’s browser. Your site’s SSL certificate should be currently valid and not expired.

Related: Why Secure Application Development Is Critical to Conscious Companies

Web pages that send and receive sensitive information, such as login forms, should use HTTPS and not HTTP. Make sure that HTTPS is also used for transmitting credentials and session tokens.

4. Input Validation

Two of the biggest website security exploits, cross-site scripting and SQL injection, occur because many sites fail to validate the input that users enter. In both exploits, the attacker inserts malicious code as part of the input, which the website server then accidentally executes.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Applications More Secure

In order to guard against these two vulnerabilities, your web application should validate and sanitize all input from the user.

5. File Uploads

If your application allows users to upload files to the server, you need to validate and sanitize them just as you would with any other input. Create a whitelist and blacklist of acceptable and unacceptable file types, and scan all files for viruses and malware. Place limits on how large the file can be and how often users can upload them.

6. Denial of Service

Like a crowd of angry protesters outside a building, denial of service (DoS) attacks attempt to flood your application’s server with illegitimate traffic. They do it to bring it down and prevent legitimate users from accessing it.

Distributed DoS attacks, such as the 2016 Dyn attack, assault your servers with traffic from thousands of different machines, making it much harder to block the attackers. If your application is important enough to be the target of a DoS attack, consider using multiple data centers in different geographical locations and working with a dedicated DoS mitigation service.

Need Some Help?

Keeping your web apps secure is important, but it’s not always easy. Choosing to partner with a web application security expert can help keep your software secure without sacrificing functionality.

If you’d like some help on your next project, just let us know – we’re more than happy to help.

6 Ways to Improve Web Application Security

Web applications have become standard aspects of business success. Web applications are so useful that many SMBs now have unique apps that help them communicate with clients, track workflows, automate tasks, and fill other needs.

While web apps may seem like great ways to improve your business processes, they can also pose serious security risks.

Follow these 6 ways to improve web application security to keep your business, clients, and network safe.

Require Strong Passwords

Requiring all of your app’s users to choose strong passwords will make it more difficult for cybercriminals to hack into accounts. Unfortunately, many people still don’t understand what features make passwords strong. You can enforce better security by requiring all users to adopt passwords that:

  • Use a combination of letters, numbers and special symbols.
  • Contain at least eight characters, preferably more.
  • Avoid using the same character twice in a row.

You can also help users choose better passwords by asking them not to replace characters with numbers and special symbols (such as turning “machine” into “m@ch!n3”).

Encrypt Your Login Page

Requiring strong passwords will help keep unauthorized users off your network. It’s a good start, but you’ll need more than strong passwords to prevent people stealing information.

If one of your app’s users connects to the application through public WiFi, then a hacker could intercept the login information. Encrypting your web application’s login page will make man-in-the-middle attacks much more difficult.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Applications More Secure

Most developers will get the security they need from 128-bit encryption. If your app connects people to private data or business processes, then you may want to upgrade to 258-bit encryption.

Learn How to Attack Your Own Security

Learning how to attack your web application is one of the most effective ways to discover security issues. If your security has a flaw, someone will eventually find it. By finding it first, you can take the appropriate steps to patch holes and reduce the risk of attack.

Some of the most common attacks to learn about include:

If you don’t have the right skills to attack your web applications, then you can either spend time learning about advanced secure coding practices, or you can hire a third party to do the work for you.

Take Your Container Security Seriously

Many app developers have started using container technology because it helps them scale quickly without many physical challenges. The improved flexibility makes it possible for developers to do their jobs better and create applications that help businesses perform.

Related: Why Secure Application Development Is Critical to Conscious Companies

Unfortunately, few developers and security teams understand the vulnerabilities that come with containers. Without the right level of security, someone could exploit vulnerabilities in the containers to steal information or make changes to internal practices.

Some of the most important security concerns for containers include:

  • Improper access control that lets unauthorized visitors use features reserved for leaders.
  • Container sprawl that could lead to increased vulnerabilities from outdated containers.
  • Old data, such as user identification credentials, that don’t have relevance to users but could be used to commit crimes.

If you use containers, you need to test them regularly to make sure they’re secure.

Sanitize Your Web App’s User Input

When users get to submit any type of data, you run a higher risk of getting targeted by malware and other types of attacks. Sanitizing your web app’s user input will help protect you from XSS and XSRF attacks.

You have two basic options when sanitizing user input. You can create a whitelist or a blacklist.

Building a whitelist will prevent unapproved types of data from getting sent to the application. For instance, if you have a form that asks for a user’s phone number, the whitelist will only accept numbers. If the user includes non-digit characters, then it will remove those unauthorized characters. If someone includes words within a phone number, the words will get taken out, leaving the numbers as the input.

A blacklist takes the opposite approach by defining what types of input it will not accept. Both approaches have similar results, but they work from different angles to make sure incoming information is safe.

Related: Why Secure Application Development Is a Necessity

Make Security Part of the Development Process

Some developers don’t think about security until after they’ve finished the first versions of their web apps. They’re so focused on making features work correctly that they don’t have the time or resources to test security.

That’s a big mistake that can make apps vulnerable. Instead of waiting, make security part of the development process. At each stage of development, you should have an opportunity to think about security. If you don’t tackle problems as they arise, then you could forget about them by the time you’re ready to release the app next month.

Stay focused on the importance of security. After all, keeping data safe is a key feature of your app.

As the popularity of web applications continues to grow, more hackers will start targeting them. Apps with weak security protocols don’t stand a chance against sophisticated attackers.

If you follow these six tips to improve web application security, though, you’ll create several barriers that help keep hackers away from your network and private information.

Why Secure Application Development Is a Necessity

With news of devastating cyberattacks constantly in the headlines, secure software development is more important than ever. Yet, far too many applications remain vulnerable to exploits by malicious actors.

According to a 2016 survey, for example, 97% of Java applications use code with at least one security hole. Another study found that security vulnerabilities were present in at least 90% of web and mobile apps.

For the good of both you and your customers, security must be a priority at all stages of the software development lifecycle. Below, we’ll discuss how and why to incorporate security into your application development processes.

How to Bake Security Into the SDLC

The software development lifecycle (SDLC) traditionally consists of a series of key phases. They span from requirements gathering and design to testing and maintenance. Whether you use the waterfall (sequential) development model, or you prioritize speed and flexibility with the agile methodology, security can and should be a preeminent concern during this process.

Some helpful guidelines for making security a priority are:

  • Developers should be trained on the principles of secure programming. One good place to start is to check your applications for common vulnerabilities, such as the OWASP Top 10 security risks for web applications. OWASP also provides a reference guide for secure coding practices that developers should consult at regular intervals.
  • Keep the development tools and technologies that you use as up-to-date as possible. The massive 2017 Equifax data breach, for example, was caused by a vulnerability in the Apache Struts web application development framework that the company should have already patched.
  • Include automated application security testing as part of your testing processes.

Related: How to Prepare Your Business for Unexpected Disasters

Regulatory Considerations for Application Development

Beyond the standard best practices for secure development, companies in certain industries must take special care to protect their applications and data from unauthorized breaches.

For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires health care organizations to secure patients’ protected health information (PHI). Companies that suffer a data breach must report the attack soon after its discovery. They may face financial penalties if the information was not adequately protected.

Another security standard, PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), regulates how organizations may handle and store customers’ payment card information.

Related: Why You Must Never Neglect Software Testing

The 12 PCI-DSS requirements include the installation of a firewall and the encrypted transmission of cardholder data across open networks. Failure to meet these guidelines may result in harsh fines and even the revocation of your company’s ability to process credit cards.

The Role of MSPs During Software Testing

You may feel overwhelmed by the potential vulnerabilities and security flaws that you need to account for. But rest assured that you don’t have to go it alone. A growing number of companies are relying on managed security providers (MSPs) to assist them with application security testing during the development process.

By working with an MSP, you can focus on your core business functions while leaving the security tests to the experts. MSPs will subject your application to a variety of both automated and manual tests. Automated vulnerability scanners can immediately identify a number of weaknesses and flaws, while manual “penetration tests” evaluate the software’s resiliency to attack.

Partnering with an MSP can give you high-quality, efficient and timely security tests so that you can keep pace with your development schedule without sacrificing software quality.

How the Cloud Fits Your Business

In the past, only large corporations considered moving their systems to the cloud. Today, cloud computing can fit any size business. In fact, migrating to the cloud offers a variety of benefits for organizations of all sizes. With an effective migration plan, organizations of all sizes can use the power of cloud computing to accelerate growth.

Cloud Computing is Becoming a Necessity

Small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) are facing the same type of heavy competition as their larger brethren. Cloud computing is revealing itself as a significant competitive advantage for SMBs and has moved from a viable alternative to a necessary tool.

Financial Benefits: Cloud Computing Will Tie Some Benefits Directly to Cost Savings

  • When you use cloud storage and cloud services, you naturally experience economies of scale. And, your computing resources can easily adjust to workload variations.

 

  • Your power consumption will automatically decrease, and you will spend less on managing a large number of onsite systems.

Related: 3 Types of Clouds: Which is Right for You?

  • Personnel costs will drop significantly. Often, the largest share of the IT budget goes to maintaining staff. When you migrate to the cloud, some of the personnel savings you experience locally will help to pay for your cloud services. In addition, your IT staff can then concentrate on doing more strategic tasks and acquiring new skills.

 

  • Migrating to the cloud doesn’t require any capital outlay. This is a definite advantage for SMBs that need to find capital for increasing their in-house operations.

 

  • Your SMB will only pay for the power you need. Maintaining flexibility in in-house systems typically requires the acquisition of more computing power than is needed on a daily basis. It’s critical to be able to handle failures or emergencies, as well as quick increases in sales. With cloud computing, the systems can be adjusted easily and only on an as-needed basis.

 

  • Cloud computing is a great way to level the playing field against larger competitors, allowing an SMB to acquire a larger market share.

Competitive Benefits: Some Benefits of Cloud Computing Will Give SMBs More Capabilities That They Can Apply to Win Against Competitors

  • Gathering and analyzing business data provides a significant competitive advantage through more accurate and faster decision making. The use of cloud computing provides the cloud storage and power needed to store and analyze a meaningful amount of business intelligence.

Related: What Does the Modern Cloud Look Like?

  • Information gathered by AlertLogic and Microsoft indicate that businesses using cloud computing have actually experienced a lower rate of security problems than those using in-house data centers. Besides that, 94 percent of SMBs have seen better security due to keeping systems, spam filters and antivirus programs up to date.

 

  • Cloud computing demonstrably provides more uptime, as 75% of SMBs report improved availability after migrating to the cloud.

Well-Planned Migration Is Critical

Migrating to the cloud effectively requires careful planning. While many SMBs report better security when cloud computing is used, it’s still up to the individuals planning the migration to ensure that security is at the top of the list of requirements. These are the most critical considerations for your migration.

  • Start small: Don’t try to migrate all of your systems at one time. Start small to get experience in completing the migration.

 

  • Choose cloud service providers carefully: Make sure you’re working with trusted and reliable suppliers of both cloud technology and the cloud support services you’ll need to make the migration successful.

 

  • Diversify passwords and user permissions: The migration is an excellent time to ensure that all the access points to your system are secure. Enforce secure passwords and restrict permissions to the greatest extent possible, and educate employees on the need for security.

 

  • Confirm backup procedures: Ensure that the cloud technology supplier you work with has a backup configuration that will allow you to access files from previous versions in the event of a problem.

Related: The Managed Services Pre-flight Checklist  

Next Steps

If you’re not one of the 66% of SMBs that see technology as a key success factor for meeting business objectives, now would be a good time to revisit that issue. As digital transformation affects more of the business community, using cloud computing will only become more critical for success.

 

What Does the Modern Cloud Look Like?

The evolution of cloud computing has been an incredible thing to watch for businesses. The cloud solutions that are available these days offer benefits in almost every category of business improvement.

Though the technology advances with each passing day, as you’re making business decisions now, it’s important to understand what the world of cloud computing looks like today.

The Current Cloudscape

How are business reacting to cloud solutions? Businesses are taking to the cloud by storm. And with the enormity of solutions available, it’s no wonder that 70% of enterprises will be implementing a multi-cloud strategy by 2019, according to Gartner.

This isn’t just limited to a cloud-based business app here and there. Companies now run 79% of workloads in cloud, which means the power of mobility, connectivity and productivity are translating to a big part of IT strategy.

Major Cloud Providers

While there is a wealth of cloud providers offering an ever-expanding catalog of cloud solutions, the top three have dominated the market and are often the go-to cloud provider for businesses looking ways to scale and improve workflow.

Amazon Web Services

The cloud as a commercial product really begins with Amazon Web Services, giving enterprise and small businesses alike the opportunity to build applications with powerful cloud software and host software platforms for their customers. Clients include Netflix and Expedia.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure offers cloud solutions that interweave seamlessly with its most popular platforms, like Office 365. Azure boasts 90% of Fortune 500 companies on its roster, including Adobe and 3M.

Google Cloud

Google Cloud gives you innovative machine learning, data analytics and more to help businesses harness previously unavailable computing power. Their top clients include Coca-Cola and Spotify.

Types of Cloud Solutions

For many businesses, choosing the type of cloud depends on the needs and goals of the individual business. Cloud access comes in three forms:

Public Cloud

Public cloud offers you the most flexibility in terms of mobility and scalability. With the public cloud, users effectively share access to storage and computing power. Likewise, there is no required management with the public cloud.

Private Cloud

For businesses who want higher security standards, the private cloud gives you sole access to data center servers. There is no sharing, which reduces flexibility but does mitigate risk at a higher level.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud solutions give you an opportunity to utilize both the public and private cloud wherever each is most beneficial. In this circumstance, some of your workflow (like emails) may be in the public sphere for speed and flexibility, while others (like customer data) may stay private for extra security.

Related: The Cloud: Why It’s More Important than Ever

Variety of Applications

The variety of cloud applications is virtually limitless. Businesses looking for scalability may find virtualization in the cloud fulfils those needs. Others looking for business continuity options, too, may find that the cloud gives them the best backup and recovery support choices.

 

No matter what your business needs may be, there are cloud solutions available to you if you know where to look.

Contact GB Tech today to talk about your cloud options for business.

Learn More: Work More Efficiently from Anywhere with the Cloud

The managed services pre-flight checklist

Your business bags are packed and ready for travel. The destination? Growth and expansion. There’s just one problem– how will you get there? The route will have storms and turbulence that will be hard to avoid without the right technology co-pilot by your side.

The right managed services provider (MSP) can be that co-pilot. A smooth trip is all about the right technology solutions. With that in mind, here are your managed services pre-flight checklist.

Related: How to Prepare Your Business for Unexpected Disasters

Data backup services for continuity

Who will get your back when bullying cyber thieves come for your mission-critical data? And who will keep it safe from harm when storms try to take your business out of flight?

The right MSP can provide data backup solutions that ensure your important data and systems are backed up with the multiple redundancies needed to make sure you never lose so much as a single piece of your data.

Backing your data up onsite and on your own can be a recipe for disaster. Your data is the fuel in your engines. Lose it, and there’s no way you’ll be able to take off.

Related: 3 Malware Threats to Watch Out for in 2018

Network security for brand protection

Are you vetting the people trying to travel in and out of your network? A qualified MSP can secure your network from potential threats with constant oversight and consistent intervention when threats arise.

Employee training on threats such as phishing scams or email spoofing and general network oversight will mean that your business stays in flight (rather than grounded by downtime).

Related: What is the Value of a Brand?

Help desk and oversight for network harmony

Who’s there to help you troubleshoot? It doesn’t take a smoking engine to or frozen flap to cause problems in your flight plan. Slow computers, unresponsive programs, and network bottlenecks can all become major productivity stalls.

Engaging with the right MSP’s help desk solution puts a trusted team of qualified engineers at your beck and call 24/7 to deal with problems ranging from minor annoyances to major issues.

Even if you already have your own in-house IT expert, it’s likely there are places a good MSP could fill in the gaps. They can provide the kind of total network support that can keep your business soaring above the competition by focusing on growing and meeting company objectives instead of fumbling with frustrating technology.

Where will you fly with managed services?

The right technology is a powerful advantage that creates great momentum in your business operations. By trusting an MSP to take the technology yoke you can set your business up for growth, efficiency, and long-term success.

So what are you waiting for? Prep for takeoff.

Related: The Countless Benefits of Managed Services

How to Prepare Your Business for Unexpected Disasters

If we learned anything from Hurricane Harvey, it’s that preparation is never regretted. That’s the thing about businesses. We get insurance for loss, like hardware, office space and so on. But the biggest piece, truly, is having a business continuity plan based on data backup. Getting a check from the insurance company is great, but the loss of productivity or the absence of data access can crush your company.

So, how do you prepare your business for unexpected disasters? How do you ensure that your downtime is minimized, and your return to business is quick and efficient?

The answer is in a proper data backup plan that is well-thought-out and covers your hard work with redundancy.

Develop a disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

Your backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan should be a living document that details a number of different elements and procedures. The plan accounts for everything that your business needs to run and proposes contingencies for multiple disaster scenarios, including everything from natural disasters to cyberattacks.

You need to list several things:

  • Your equipment. This includes hardware and software. What model of laptops/desktops and servers do you use? Can they quickly and easily be replaced? What software is essential for your day-to-day business workflow? Are your licenses up to date? If you aren’t already using cloud-based applications can you a new copy of your software be downloaded and installed with ease?
  • Potential disasters. This is a brainstorming session. If a fire or other catastrophic disaster physically wipes out your office, where do you set up shop? How do you replace equipment? How do you get connected to the internet?
  • Your reaction. Who is in charge of what? How does your staff communicate after a big disaster? Who is delegated to what responsibilities? How do we update our clients? Define your key players in recovery.

Related: Data Backups and the Erroneous Behavior of Your Employees

Backup data to highly secure cloud servers.

While on-premise backups are great for local file recovery, true business continuity needs off-site redundancy. Cloud-based data backups are essential these days as it relocates your data away from the disaster that may have downed your business. Modern data centers are often protected from weather and natural disasters, and provide increased levels of both physical and cybersecurity. This means that your data will also be protected by military-grade encryption to ensure that only you may access and initiate retrieval protocols.

Should your backup and recovery include virtualization, your solution can be configured to automatically failover and spin up replicated versions of your lost servers and data. This will enable your team to securely redirect their workflow to the cloud backup and continue working as usual while local office recovery is underway.

68% of small businesses don’t have a written disaster recovery plan. Nationwide

Run frequent, scheduled backups, and test, test, test.

If you don’t test your backups, you must assume you don’t have them. You not only want to have frequent, automated backups (at least every 15 minutes) but you also must test your backups. You never want to wait until it’s too late and find out that a glitch has rendered your data unrecoverable.

Related: Data Loss Disasters: Bad Decisions Revisited

GB Tech and Data Backup Planning

The time to start planning your business continuity is now. With GB Tech, your business has the best opportunity for recovery. Call us today to learn more.

Learn more: Plan to Backup and Restore Your Data ASAP

The Countless Benefits of Managed Services

Beyond the Buzzword: What is a Managed Service?

Managed service is a buzzword. There’s a good chance that unless you have worked with a managed service provider (MSP) in the past or have experience in the IT world that you’ve never actually heard that phrase – and that’s okay.

Managed services cover a wide variety of modern IT services, most of which replace or complement more traditional IT solutions. Over the last 15 years or so, software that can be sold as a service has been gradually replacing older hardware. One great example of this is Microsoft Office 365. Microsoft Office has been ubiquitous in the business world for ages and is one of the most widely used pieces of software ever created, but Office 365 allows Microsoft to breathe new life into their old product by selling it as a service. Adoption rates for Office 365 are incredible, hitting 24.9 million American subscribers in early 2017.

This process is not a unique one, and it has many benefits. In the case of software as a service (SaaS) specifically, the vendor has the ability to correct errors, release periodic updates, and the customer receives stability and ongoing customer service that would be difficult to achieve with a traditional software purchase.

Managed services fall under a massive umbrella that covers a wide variety of services – and it’s only a growing market. Some researchers say that worldwide IT services spending will reach $966 billion in 2017. That’s a staggering figure, even for a worldwide industry.

Managed services are rapidly replacing traditional IT solutions, and consumers are seeing savings. As of 2016, 72% of businesses outsourced IT, and 31% planned on scaling up their IT outsourcing. Much like Microsoft’s example of software as a service, many other older technological mainstays are being phased out. Many small businesses are abandoning their old data storage systems for cloud storage. Others are ditching their old server to take advantage of virtualization options, often referred to as infrastructure as a service (IaaS). One of the latest trends is the adoption of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as a replacement for (and improvement upon) traditional phone lines.

As managed services replace IT as we know it, it’s important to be aware of what kinds of options your business has. Businesses are seeing a wide variety of benefits, some of which may apply to your company as well.

Managed Services Grow with You

When traditional technology still reigned supreme, businesses often ran into trouble when they needed to scale their capabilities up or down, especially when such scaling needed to happen on a regular basis (as in the case of a seasonal business, for example).

This brings us to another one of those buzzwords: scalability. For our purposes, scalability is the ability of a service to increase or decrease its capacity in accordance with your business’s needs. In slightly more academic terms, there are four specific kinds of scalability that your business should be concerned with:

  1. Administrative scalability: the ability to add new users to the network with minimal effort
  2. Functional scalability: the ability to easily add additional functions to the network
  3. Geographic scalability: the ability to spread the network over a wider physical area without a notable performance penalty
  4. Load scalability: the ability of a network or system to handle larger or smaller than average workloads or inputs

Pretty dry, right? The good news is that at GB Tech, we generally try to avoid that kind of jargon altogether. A good managed service should meet all four of those definitions and grow to meet your requirements alongside your business – or in some cases scale down due to unforeseen circumstances.

Compared to managed services, older technologies are left wanting in terms of scalability. Remember the days when you had to buy a new filing cabinet every few months? With solutions like cloud services that can scale to meet your needs  you’ll never have to worry about such annoyances again – and you won’t pour money into hardware that might soon be obsolete.

How You’ll Benefit from Managed Services

Your business will benefit from managed services in almost countless ways, but there are certainly a few highlights that will be evident at surface level and immediately affect the quality of your daily workflows.

Cutting Costs Icon1. You’ll Save Money on Labor

Assembling an in-house IT staff is expensive, especially if your business is still in the early stages of its lifecycle. To make matters worse, an SMB’s day-to-day IT needs are often modest, meaning that a full-time IT staffer will often be left without work to do, resulting in a waste of money on your part and a waste of talent on your employee’s part. By outsourcing IT, you’ll be spending less than you would on a full employee’s salary, and you can scale your service to your needs.

Eye Icon2. Managed Service Providers Are in the Trenches Every Day

The legendary German officer Helmuth von Moltke is remembered for his most famous quote: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

Moltke’s words ring true in the face of nearly any crisis, including an unexpected IT disaster. No matter how much you prepare, you’re very likely to come across a problem that you can’t solve just by following procedure. No matter how well-trained and knowledgeable your in-house IT professional might be, they still spend most of the time within the bubble of your company. Conversely, the IT experts at a managed service provider like GB Tech are out in the field every day, and in our company’s 30 years of experience we’ve seen nearly everything there is to see.

3. You Can Supplement Your Current IT Investments

Working with a managed service provider doesn’t have to spell doom for the IT professionals you already have working in your company. Some companies see better results from outsourcing IT when they complement the outside service with internal investments; the savings actually come from other operational areas. Analysis shows that internal IT personnel are actually key to capturing the value of IT outsourcing – and the two forces working in tandem can provide massive value for your business.

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Conclusion

It’s universally accepted that businesses need to invest in IT to survive in an increasingly digital world. As millennials step in for retiring baby boomers in the workforce, technology in the workplace is becoming less of a burden and more of a necessity. Opening up your business to a true technological transformation may not be easy – it actually requires a fearless, forward thinking attitude – but it will be fruitful. Managed services can make your business safer, more efficient, and more appealing to talented new employees.

At GB Tech we offer services in the form of the GB Tech Managed Services Package, a comprehensive set of solutions that we tailor to fit each one of our clients’ needs. We don’t believe in nickel and diming you for things you don’t need, nor do we cut corners to get you the cheapest results. We say that our offerings are mission critical, and we mean it – every project, no matter how large or small, will be held to the same high standards. You want to go to the moon, and we want to get you there.

All it takes to get started is a phone call or a message.