3 “Gotchas” Most IT Pros Won’t Tell You When Selling You Their Cloud Solution

Are you using any cloud applications to store data?

Then listen up!

There are a few “gotchas” you need to know about 3rd-party cloud apps that most sales reps will NEVER tell you.

  1. They aren’t responsible for keeping a backup of your data. If you read the small print of your contract, you’ll see that in every way possible, your cloud provider is NOT responsible for data loss or backups – even if it’s their fault. In fact, Office365 will only keep 3 days backup of your data; so if you delete or overwrite a file and don’t notice it until 4-5 days later, it’s GONE. If your data is important, you need to implement a backup solution that works with cloud applications.
  2. What you see may NOT be what you get. There’s nothing more frustrating than an incredibly slow application when you’re trying to work; and the salesperson demo’ing the application or platform is going to make sure you only see the BEST-case scenarios for performance. But there are a lot of things that can determine how fast your cloud applications run, such as the file size you’re working on, CPUs and RAM and storage, time of day, day of the week, your Internet connection and the number of users accessing the application. Make sure you get some verification of the speed in YOUR specific environment before spending a lot of money, time and aggravation moving to a new cloud application.
  3. What if they cancel you? Here’s a scary situation: what if your cloud provider decides to shut down your account because they go out of business or simply decide not to service you anymore? Or what if YOU want out? Make sure you have in writing what happens if YOU cancel your contract AND what your cloud provider can and cannot do if they go out of business, cancel your account or have any other issues that would cause service interruption. Moving a network from a cloud platform is NOT a simple task and you need to make sure you can get your data and that you’ll be given sufficient time to make the transition.

Need help interpreting any of these scenarios?

CIO has “gotcha” covered!

Give us a call at 314-414-8400.

We will help you put in place a solid “Plan B” for any of the above issues, so you never have to worry about your 3rd party cloud applications saying “gotcha, too late.”

 

 

Do I Need To Back Up Data That’s Already In The Cloud?

Picture1The computing world is forever changing.

Over the last 15 years, SaaS (software as a service) providers have offered the convenience of data backup for your cloud applications such as CRM systems, SalesForce, Google Apps and Microsoft Office365.

The business question is, if I’m already working with a SaaS provider and my data is already “in” the cloud, do I really need to back up my data to another cloud? After all, isn’t the SaaS provider doing that for me?

Well yes, and no.

Yes, your data (one of your company’s most valuable assets) is being backed up by the service provider. And yes, it’s in the cloud.  And yes, these providers have backups to their backups…but are they backing up your business-critical information? Can you guarantee that? And do you have access to it in a timely manner? The answer to these questions may be no.

As a rule, SaaS providers do not open backups to customers nor do they make restoring critical data easy or intuitive. For example, SalesForce, the first commercially available SaaS application, does nightly customer backups. But if you need to recover your data, you have to go directly to SalesForce and pay a minimum of $10,000 then wait a few weeks for your data to be restored.

There’s no question that the results of data loss can be devastating to your company. But when it comes down to it, it’s your company information and you need to take responsibility for safeguarding it.

You need to have a strategy in place.

Want to learn more about how to back up your cloud SAAS applications?  

To schedule a time to discuss your particular situation and what solutions are available for you, contact our office at:

314-414-8400 or here.

 

Nervous About Cloud Computing?

CloudThere is a huge trend in technology to move towards cloud computing services. Everyone is advertising that it’s better, faster, cheaper, safer. Cloud services are accessible from anywhere, and you don’t need your IT guy anymore, right? At the same time, those subscription fees add up fast, new security breaches are making headlines almost every day, and you still need your IT guy around to interpret all that technobabble for you (and troubleshoot the computer glitches that still happen all too often!). No wonder it’s so confusing. Here are the answers to your biggest questions about the cloud.

Is it safe?

The most common concern with cloud services is security. Large cloud computing providers are able to set up security infrastructure far better than most small businesses, which makes them safer. However, hackers enjoy the challenge of newsworthy targets, which creates greater risk. There is also financial gain: credit card numbers and bank accounts generate a lot of money for hackers. The reality is that security issues are a problem no matter how you manage your technology. All you can do is follow security best practices and make sure your vendors do the same. Be especially careful with smaller cloud service providers since they may not have the security resources and policies of a larger company.

You will also need to be careful if you are subject to regulatory compliance policies like HIPAA, PCI, SOX, FISMA, etc. Penalties for non-compliance can be steep, so it’s critical to verify that your vendor can guarantee compliance with whatever regulatory requirements impact your company.

What if it goes down?

If your cloud provider has an outage and their services go down, there’s not a whole lot you can do. You can call them for support, and they may have a portal or Twitter feed for status updates. But really, all you can do is alert them and then wait. It’s not the same as calling up your local IT guy who you know and trust.

You could also lose access if your Internet service goes down. You may want to get a secondary Internet service so that if one goes down, you can access the Internet over the backup service. You can also go to another location with Internet service and connect from there.

How do I get to my data?

As long as you like your vendors, you don’t have to worry too much about accessing your data. If you want to move from one cloud to another, or one software vendor to another, this can become a huge problem. It can also come up as an issue if you have reason to archive your data or don’t trust their disaster recovery procedures. Some cloud vendors make it very difficult to download your data. This is a very common issue when it comes to software. Even if access is provided, it can be a highly time-consuming process to identify and download every piece of data. Email and file storage is usually relatively easy to transfer from one company to another.

Do I still need a server at my office?

Maybe. If you only have a few computers, you probably don’t need one; in fact you may not have one now. Once you get past ten or fifteen computers, there are definite advantages to having a server in place. It will allow you to set security policies and password requirements; it will give you control and administrative access to the computers on the network; and it will make it easier to install and share printers.

The other main reason to keep a server in-house is to run software. If you have an application that runs on your server now, you will have to keep a server or find out if your vendor offers a hosted version in the cloud.

Will it really save me money?

Not always. The promise is that the cloud is less expensive due to efficiencies and economies of scale. The bottom line is that you have to run the numbers. You can purchase (or lease) software and servers, which involves a large upfront expense and a relatively low ongoing maintenance fee. If you go with cloud services, your initial expense will be low, but you will always have a monthly expense as long as you use that service. If you rely heavily on cloud services you will probably add another expense: a backup Internet connection. Cloud services hit the books differently, which can impact taxes: a server install is a capital expense, but cloud services are considered an operating expense. When doing your calculations, bear in mind that servers run about 4-5 years before risk of failure becomes a significant issue.

How do I decide if it’s right for my business?

Whether they realize it or not, most companies are already using at least a few cloud services. When it comes to personal use, nearly everyone is in the cloud. You may already use hosted email, like Office365 or Google Apps; perhaps you use Dropbox or Box.com to share files; you might handle video calls with Skype or Gotomeeting; if you have an iPhone you probably back up your data with iCloud. Don’t forget: Facebook and Twitter are cloud services too.

The question is whether you should move more of your technology into the cloud, and there is no one right answer. The best time to evaluate this move is when you have an aging server ready for replacement. Run the numbers, look at the security risks, and think through how much control you need to feel comfortable. Don’t forget to weigh the advantages too: reduced infrastructure in your office, easy access for your staff who work remotely, low startup costs and less need for in-house IT services, just to name a few. There are a lot of great services available to make your team more productive, so don’t let any hesitation about the cloud keep you from doing what’s best for your business.

The Latest IT Trend: BYOA

men-97291_150Most businesses have heard of BYOD by now. That’s “bring your own device,” and it refers to the fast-growing trend of employees bringing personally-owned smartphones, tablets, and other devices into the workplace. Along with the BYOD trend we’re now seeing BYOA, which stands for “bring your own app.” Employees who use mobile, cloud-based apps in their personal life are turning to these for business use.

The biggest advantage: productivity. The biggest concern: security.

Can You Avoid It?

Unless you have extremely rigid security policies in place, or a very tech-phobic team, your employees are almost certainly using their own devices and apps already. If you aren’t sure, ask them. Find out what phones and tablets they use, what applications they like, and what they use for work.

Most people start by accessing company email on their personal devices, or adding it to their Gmail account. As for apps, the most common examples include Evernote for note-taking and record keeping; Dropbox for file sharing; Skype for chat, phone, and video calls; Google Docs for email, document editing, and storage; and many more.

Since people are so accustomed to these apps, it’s easy to start using them for business. Maybe there’s a document they want to work on from home (Dropbox/Google Docs), or they need to connect to a co-worker while travelling (Skype), or they want to keep detailed notes in meetings (Evernote). Most people wouldn’t think twice about using apps like these to get their work done, especially if it’s easier than using whatever tools are provided by your company.

How Do You Manage It?

You can take one of three approaches: block it, ignore it, or embrace and guide it. Given the productivity benefits for employees, it doesn’t make sense to block it. If you ignore it, you are taking a huge gamble on security. That leaves one answer: embrace this trend, and guide it so that you still gain all the benefits while managing business risk.

For email, decide whether it is acceptable for staff to access it on personal devices. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. For example, hourly employees who read company email after hours should get paid for that time, so HR needs to be closely involved in these discussions. Also you need to decide how to handle email security in the event of a termination. The best practice is to create a BYOD policy that gives the employer “right to wipe” if an employee is terminated, to protect the security of company information. That means you can remotely delete all the data from their personal devices. If you go this route you need to decide what tools you will use to enforce this policy.

If you find people are regularly using file-sharing services, that’s an indication that remote access to company files is inconvenient to use. Either improve remote access capabilities, or consider moving your company file storage to one of these services. Nearly all the major file sharing services have affordable business editions. The business versions have improved security and management features over the consumer versions, so you’ll have better control over company data.

Is Skype popular in your company? That means it’s time to explore video conferencing. Skype has a premium version, or you can check out other tools like Gotomeeting.com. Video calls are more productive than conference calls, because if someone gets distracted you can see they are doing other things. They can’t simply put you on mute.

Tools that help employees manage to-do lists and note-taking tend to be based on individual preferences, so these are not areas where it makes sense to dictate company policies around which apps are acceptable. Just be sure your staff is saving company information in the appropriate places for record-keeping, and they don’t keep valuable data that you need on personal devices that you can’t control or secure.

How Do You Keep Your Company Secure?

There are many aspects of security that you need to consider. First, there is risk of viruses and malware from employees downloading files from uncontrolled locations. Many companies with strong security measures in place have been undone by an employee innocently checking their personal webmail at work and clicking on an infected email attachment. That virus can easily slip onto the servers and wreak havoc. Unless you are monitoring network traffic very carefully, you have no way to know what files employees may introduce to your network and whether they are virus-free.

If an employee loses a device with company data on it, make sure that device is encrypted and locked so that your data is protected. This holds true for company-provided devices as well. Some devices can be tracked using GPS, and you can install tracking tools or require employees to use them. If devices are being retired, including employees’ home PCs, make sure data is destroyed and is unrecoverable. Consider offering a company electronics recycling program so that you can ensure data destruction takes place.

If you are subject to regulatory compliance requirements, security is an especially serious concern. Data that is properly secured inside your network can be taken outside your network on a mobile device or cloud-based app, and that can put you at risk for regulatory issues. Review your data to determine what’s at risk and how to protect it.

There are a variety of technology tools that can help protect you, and these are crucial to a strong security policy. This includes everything from antivirus to web filters to tracking tools. However, the best way to manage security is by setting clear policies that are communicated and reinforced regularly. Provide security-awareness training to your team to help them better understand how to avoid issues and protect their (and your) information. Provide guidance on what apps are acceptable and how they can be used. Explain what data is protected by regulatory requirements. Make it clear that data security is a priority for the company, and help them understand the role they play.

 

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/

 

 

 

 

What Every Business Owner Must Know About Hiring An Honest, Competent, Responsive, And Fairly–Priced Computer Consultant

free reportI would love to send you a copy of my recently published report – “What Every Business Owner Must Know About Hiring An Honest, Competent, Responsive, And Fairly–Priced Computer Consultant”

Even if you aren’t ready to make a service change right now, this report will give you important questions you should ask your current IT person to make sure that their policies, procedures and service standards won’t leave you vulnerable to expensive problems, lost data, viruses, hacker attacks and a host of other problems.

Simply fill out this form and download it instantly!

Declare Freedom From High Costs & Risks By Throwing Out Data Now

taxes-226718_150Do you have mountains of information stored on your server that you’ll never use, but feel like you should keep?

You are not alone. Given expanding regulatory rules, some businesses save every bit of data they have, just to be safe.

You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal in keeping everything?”

While it is true off-site data storage costs have gone down by about 25% every year, the fact is that keeping your data forever can create big management challenges and lead to retrieval headaches. Most often companies that save everything don’t do so because they think it’s the best way, but because they aren’t sure what needs to be saved.

Every organization needs to save data for its own purposes, such as transactions, accounting records and so on. Not only that, but industry regulations require companies to save certain kinds of content for a prescribed period.

So what should you be doing? Here are 4 data-retention strategies you must consider:

  1. Start with the storage analysis, not the storage technology or procedures.  Know what data has to be kept and for how long. Many times requirements are dictated by industry or legal requirements.
  2. Segment user populations.                Use categories such as executives, back-office employees, sales and people who deal with the company’s intellectual property and treat their data differently.
  3. Be precise and consistent with data-retention policies.
  4. Don’t confuse backup with archiving. Since backup systems don’t generally have the granular control needed to save some types of information for a short time and others for longer, using them as archival systems can be costly and risky.

We can assist you in identifying best practices and cost-effective software tools for your business.

Contact us by August 15th at 314-414-8400 to receive a FREE DATA STORAGE AUDIT (normally $497!)

OR visit the contact page on our newly redesigned website to ask for your FREE DATA STORAGE AUDIT.

 

*Must be a business owner with minimum of 20 pcs and one server.