If Disaster Strikes, How Fast Could Your Company Be Back Up And Running?

You herror-101409_150ear it all the time from us—back up your data, keep your virus protection current, and install and maintain a firewall to protect yourself from hackers and other online threats.

However, while these precautions will certainly help you avoid problems, they CAN’T do anything if you don’t have a good backup and disaster recovery plan in place.

Are You A Sitting Duck?

We all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; yet, disaster recovery planning often takes a distant second to the daily deadlines and pressures of running a business.

  1. That means that most businesses, including your own, may end up offline and without your data after a simple lightening storm.
  2. Don’t think that could ever happen to you? Consider this: “data-erasing disasters” can also take the form of office fires and broken water pipes, not just earthquakes, floods and tornadoes. If a fire started in your building, the parts that weren’t burned beyond recovery would probably be destroyed by the firemen’s efforts. But even more common is software corruption, hardware failures and human error!

Disaster Recovery Questions You Need To Answer

A disaster recovery plan doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. Start by asking yourself the following questions…

  1. Do you back up your company’s data daily to both an onsite and offsite location?
  2. Are you absolutely certain that your backup copy is valid, complete and not corrupt? How do you know for sure?
  3. If disaster strikes, HOW would you get your data back, and how long would it take? In many cases it takes days and often weeks; what would you do during that period of time?
  4. Do you have copies of all the software licenses and discs in a safe location that could be accessed in the event of having to rebuild your server?
  5. Would you and your employees have a way to access your network remotely if you couldn’t get to the office?
  6. Do you store important passwords in a secure place that company officers can access if you are unavailable?
  7. Do you have a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) device in place to keep your network and other critical data operations running during a power outage?

This is NOT a complete list, but it is a good start to get you thinking in the right direction!

 

 

1 Simple Step To Step Up Meetings

We have a new tradition at our meetings at CIO. We end every meeting with the question, “How would you rate this meeting?”

Meetings get a bad rap, and deservedly so – most are disorganized and distracted. But they can be a critical tool for getting your team on the same page.

~Justin Rosenstein

Sounds simple, and it is, but this one question has improved our meetings exponentially over the last few months. Really, it’s not just this one question that has the impact, it’s the follow up question that provides the real gold! We ask everyone to rate the meeting from 1-10. Then we ask, “what would have made the meeting a 10 for you?”

I get feedback like: “the discussion was great,” “the meeting started late,” “not everyone was prepared,” “the topic was really useful,” “we ended on time,” etc. Each answer, good or bad, shows me what each member of my team values in a meeting. In turn, that’s enabling us to make our meetings more valuable and effective.

But, here is where it turns to solid gold…

Answers like: “I wasn’t prepared,” “I was distracted,” or “I didn’t participate fully,” help each person realize their individual roles in making our meetings a success, with clear actions they can take to improve, as well as accountability. The entire team is now invested in making our meetings better!

The meeting ratings started in my mastermind group as a way to make our meetings more effective. But it works in any type of meeting, whether it’s a management meeting, staff meeting, project meeting or a quick lunch meeting. I haven’t tried it with clients yet, but wait and see…I may try it with you sometime soon!

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The Last Line of Defense: How Your Own Employees Can Put Your Company at Risk

alertYour employees have a huge impact on your company’s security. If they choose easy-to-guess passwords or reuse the same password on personal and business accounts, you may be the one who pays for their poor choices. The recent rash of security scares brings this risk more to light than ever. Here are the steps you need to take to protect your business.

Implement a Password Policy

The first action to take is to create and roll out a strong password policy. The standard for strong passwords is at least 8 characters, with some combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Password changes should be required at least quarterly, and new passwords cannot be repeats or variations on previous passwords.

Most companies with Windows servers have the ability to configure and roll this out very quickly. It’s largely an automatic process, aside from helping people when they forget their new passwords. This will happen, a lot! Be sure to educate your team so they know what’s happening and why.

Limit Personal Use of Company Resources

Many companies are fairly relaxed about letting employees access the Internet and email for personal use. There is a hidden downside: your employees may surf sites that are unsafe, they may download programs that contain malware (malicious software), or they may open attachments on personal email accounts that contain viruses. You can lock down company resources, but when an employee is free to access their own websites and accounts, you never know what they might bring into your company’s network. You can minimize this with strong antivirus protection, firewall security, and web filtering. However, your employee may still click the wrong link or open the wrong attachment. Just like that, their computer and possibly more can be infected.

Scan for Malware Regularly

You should have antivirus software in place, with regular scans. Make sure you also scan for malware, which may be a separate program or security subscription. Malware is malicious software that runs on your computer in the background. It is usually fairly stealthy and not obvious, although if your computer seems to be running slowly that is often a symptom. These programs quietly log keystrokes, gather financial information, and/or collect passwords. This information can be used for a variety of purposes, none of them good.

If you want to be extremely strict you can set security policies that block employees from installing new programs on their computers. This will prevent the installation of malware. These policies tend to create other complications though, because then all software has to be installed by a system administrator. Some programs even require administrative access to run, so this won’t be possible. If you go this route, your IT staff will have to be on the ball so that they can handle the extra work this will create for them.

Terminate Use Credentials Immediately After Departure

When employees leave, disable their user accounts immediately. If you need an account to remain active – for example, to forward their email to another employee – at least change the password so the former employee no longer has access. This applies to anyone else who has company access, including consultants, contractors, vendors, interns, etc.

Monitor Failed Login Attempts

Set your systems to track failed login attempts. This could be remote logins for people working from home, email access on mobile devices, logins to web-based software applications, and any other core business systems. If you see a large number of failed attempts in a short period of time, either you have a very frustrated employee with a bad memory, or your company is under attack. You will need to assess the situation promptly and take steps to ensure that your security is not at risk.

Restrict Administrative Access

Your staff should never have full administrative access to your systems unless there is excellent reason for it. Administrative rights, or credentials, mean that a given user can do anything they want inside a system. They can add, change, or delete anything; they can even change other people’s security permissions. Outside the IT department, it is rare for anyone to have full rights. An individual may have administrative access to their own PC, but not to the network, to any of the servers, to your software systems, or anything else that’s not specific to them.

Consider Two-Factor Authentication

If you still have security concerns, check out two-factor authorization. This requires both a password (the “first factor”) as well as a code or number that’s randomly generated by a second device, usually an electronic token. The code is entered at login, along with the password. Since the token changes values all the time, it cannot be written down or passed along to someone else. This greatly increases security although it makes the login process slightly more time-consuming.

Use Password Management Tools

A great way to discourage use of the same password on all systems is to use a password management tool. These are available for individuals as well as entire companies. There are web-based applications, apps for your mobile device, and desktop programs. The whole idea is that by having a secure place to store passwords, you can use a greater number of them without fear that you will forget. Most include a random password generator and a cut-and-paste feature that eliminates the need to retype each password every time.

Conduct Security Awareness Training

All the measures in the world won’t help if employees don’t take these policies seriously. Many people still think – mistakenly – that there is little chance their noncompliance could ever cause a problem. Recent outbreaks like the Heartbleed Bug and Cryptolocker virus reveal that nothing is further from the truth. One employee’s weak password or accidental download can take down an entire company’s data network. Now that you understand this, you must train your employees so that they too can understand how important these policies are.

Eight Productivity-Boosting Tech Upgrades

Time is MoneyDo you have people on your team who are so amazing, you wish you had an extra hour of their time every day? With technology, you can have exactly that. The following upgrades can save anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even the smallest improvements, just a few seconds here and there, really add up when they are repeated over and over throughout the work week.

Some of these upgrades require you to spend money, but think about the benefits you’ll see when your top people –including yourself – find all that extra time.

Buy a New Computer

If your computer takes more than a few seconds to boot up every morning, it’s time for a new one, or at least a tune-up. For best performance, replace desktop PCs every 3-4 years and laptops every 2-3 years. If a newer computer is slow, ask your IT team to check it for spyware. They may recommend wiping the entire hard drive and reloading everything, which will give you a fresh clean start. Just be sure they backup data and settings so nothing is lost during this process. With faster speeds, you’ll gain time when you login every morning and also throughout the day.

Manage Email Better

It’s common to receive dozens if not hundreds of emails daily. Saving a few seconds every time you check email is a big deal. To accomplish this, first make sure your spam filter is working well and customized to your needs. You should have very little spam, and your legitimate emails should nearly always make it through. If not, have your tech team fix it. Use Outlook rules to automatically filter email and move it to folders, so that you can easily find what you need. Make sure mobile devices like smartphones and tablets sync email so that anything you read on your phone is already updated on your computer. Lastly, take an hour and go “unsubscribe.” Most people receive email newsletters they never read. Click the unsubscribe links or block them with your spam filter, and then you never have to see these again!

Add Another Monitor

Adding a monitor is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get more done in less time. Studies show varying results depending on the type of work you do, but one thing is crystal clear: dual monitors are a huge productivity booster. This can gain you a full day a week, if not more, and there’s almost no training time required. Keep email open in one screen, and whatever you are working on in another; compare spreadsheets or documents side by side; copy information from one software package to another; keep your main system front and center while browsing the Internet for research on the other monitor. It sounds simple, but that’s the beauty of it. It IS simple, and it really makes a difference.

Encourage Remote Access

Make it easy for people to work anytime, anywhere, and give them the flexibility they need to do just that. Switch from a desktop to a laptop, buy them an iPad or Droid tablet, or give your staff a data plan that lets them connect to the Internet anywhere they might be. It’s not just the workaholics who will love you. Your hardworking staff who struggle to balance work and life will be especially appreciative. When they have the right technology to work remotely, along with flexible work schedules and your trust, you are likely to see them put in not only more hours, but also more productive hours because they have their home life better under control.

Upgrade Your Internet

Do you use cloud-based services? Spend a lot of time online? Check out faster Internet connections for increased speed throughout your day. High speed business-class cable Internet is one of the best values today. Fiber Internet connections cost more but provide fast speeds with extremely high reliability and very few outages.

Make Information Easier to Access

Information overload is a huge issue and time-waster. Employees spend hours every day searching for what they need, reformatting what they have, transferring information from one system to another, and recreating information they can’t find. At minimum, clean up and reorganize your company’s shared data drives. Communicate the new structure to your team, and challenge your managers to enforce the new structure. If you want to take it further, investigate document management systems. These provide greater structure and security to company information and include advanced search capabilities to make finding data as easy as possible.

Chat with Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is a quick and easy way to communicate with others inside the company. It’s more immediate and interactive than email, but less disruptive than a phone call. It’s a very efficient way to communicate and yet another way to save a few minutes here and there throughout the day.

Reorganize Your Desktop

Take a page from Lean manufacturing, and have everyone on your team reorganize their workspace to make it more efficient: make everything you do on a regular basis accessible within one to two mouse clicks.

Start with the applications you use daily. Add shortcuts to your desktop or taskbar for each of these, and clean up any that you don’t currently use. Also add shortcuts to the folders you access most. Create bookmarks for the websites you visit most often, and rearrange your browser toolbars so that you can get to those websites with a single click. Is there a feature in Office that you use constantly but it’s hidden in the ribbon so you have to hunt for it every time? You can add that command to the very top of the window in the “Quick Access Toolbar.” Google for instructions on how to do this in your version of Office.

Ready For More?

There are always more ways technology can make your team more productive, and it’s never “one size fits all.” The key is to be clear about what you expect and what the value will be. Then you can choose the very best technology tools for your business.

CIO Security ALERT: 5 Million Gmail Usernames and Passwords Leaked Online

alertThis is an Alert from CIO Services. We will never send alerts that are not warranted and we request that you read the entire advisory and share it so that others may protect their personal accounts.

Unknown hackers have leaked over five million valid credentials pertaining to Google Mail logins early this morning. The file of leaked emails does not contain any passwords or other sensitive information, only full Gmail email addresses, but this still poses a serious threat to personal information.

Here’s what we recommend to protect your Gmail accounts:

  • Do not enter any email username or password combinations into any websites “to check if your password is secure.” It appears scams are already appearing.
  • We highly recommend you change your Gmail password regardless and turn on a form of two-factor authentication to heighten security and prevent any possible future attacks.
  •  When you change your passwords, we recommend you pick a new password that is strong (at least 9 characters long with UPPER case and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters such as $%&*!@).
  • Please read the link below for easy ways to create good passwords that you can remember: http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/antivirusantispyware/tp/5-steps-to-a-strong-password.htm

How To Ensure The Heat Doesn’t Fry Your Server (And Your Profits!)

error-101409_150Could The Dog Days Of Summer Be A Threat To Your Business?

With the “dog days” of summer upon us, most business owners are looking for ways to keep their company’s sales and profits HOT, while keeping their IT expenses COOL. But if proper attention is not given to your server and network equipment during the summer, all that heat outside can actually bring your company’s growth to a grinding halt and increase your IT expenses significantly.

Excess heat can be a big problem for small to mid-sized business servers, since a server that becomes overheated usually costs more in energy, fails more often and is more likely to crash. For most companies, a server crash can mean hours or days of downtime, unproductive employees, HUGE amounts of stress and thousands of dollars in lost opportunity.

“7 Steps Every Business Owner Must Take To Prevent a Server Crash”

Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent your server and network equipment from overheating and crashing this summer:

  1. Tidy up the server room; a neater room will increase airflow.
  2. Keep the doors to the server room closed and seal off the space.
  3. Make sure cold air reaches all the equipment.
  4. Have a redundant A/C that is specifically designed for computers.
  5. Buy a rack enclosure where the cooling is built into the bottom of the rack.
  6. Keep the temperature at no more than 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Consider virtualization or cloud computing so that you are generating a lower amount of heat in the first place.

Protect your server and computer equipment from frying with our FREE “Beat The Heat” Network Audit. Schedule your “Beat The Heat” Audit today!

Call our office at 314-414-8400.

Email info@cioservicesllc.com.

OR visit the contact page on our newly redesigned website to ask for your FREE “Beat The Heat” Network Audit.

 www.cioservicesllc.com/contact-us/

 

 

 

 

Juicy Read: Get A Grip

grip

Get A Grip

By Gino Wickman & Mike Paton

“Get A Grip: How to Get Everything You Want from Your Entrepreneurial Business” is a fable telling the story of a very real process for getting a grip on your business. It is the story of a business in a very common rut trying to get out. For the actual process read the companion book “Traction,” also a CIO juicy read.