December 01, 2015
Business Continuity 101 for Small Business Owners
As a small business owner, you obviously have many challenges. Meeting revenue targets, keeping customers satisfied and reducing operational expenses are just some of the obstacles you face.
Imagine you come into the office and your PCs and server - the technological workhorses that your business relies on to operate - are completely fried.
You’re faced with the challenge of getting your business back up and running. You can’t afford extended downtime, and don’t want to imagine how it will impact your bottom line. Sadly, data loss is common. Whether it’s natural disasters like hurricanes, electrical storms and floods, or new-age disasters like viruses (think CryptoLocker), user error, or old/faulty equipment. You need a proper business continuity plan to stay protected.
Business continuity is a key component of your overall strategy. It’s not fun to think about, but you’re better off preparing now, rather than scrambling after it’s too late. In this series of blogs, we’ll talk about what business continuity actually is - and why it’s important to take it seriously.
If you’re like most businesses, you work on PCs. Your PCs run applications like MS Office, Exchange, SQL and other software. The files created using these applications are saved on servers that store your business data. It’s safe to say your business relies on these pieces of technology to operate, so you need to ensure the data is safe and readily available.
Let’s take a look at what you need to protect. You may be familiar with some areas, but others may not have crossed your mind as needing to be backed up and protected because hey, they just exist…don’t they?
Files and folders- these are your day-to-day documents and records used to keep track of your operations. If you’re a medical professional, it’s patient records. If you’re a legal professional, it’s client information, case files and contracts. If you’re in education, it’s report cards, student records and staff files. If you’re a small business owner, it’s your point-of-sale records, invoices and customer data. Files and folders are what we typically think of protecting, or backing up. Most likely, you already have a solution that keeps this data safe.
Applications- these are the programs that run your files. Microsoft Office, Exchange, SQL, your billing software, the software that makes an x-ray generator work, or the one that’s tied to your point of sale equipment. Without these, you wouldn’t be able to do any work. Applications end up creating the files that we read, analyse and report on. What you may not realise is that just because you’re backing up your files and folders, that doesn’t mean that you can view the files and folders. You have to back up applications as well, and more importantly in a format that is easy to restore. Files are the message, but your applications are the message decoders.
Configurations and settings- many of the applications you have may be personalised to your needs right from the applications - including the Windows and Linux software itself. For example, auto-updating software or alerts for malware, or even scheduling are based on configurations and settings. While these are all happening in the background and aren’t items that you interact with daily, configurations and settings make your interactions with the applications seamless.
SaaS data- if you’re using Salesforce.com, Office 365, or Google Apps, believe it or not, you still need to protect this data. While these cloud-based applications make life easier and work more accessible, they have vulnerabilities as well. Just because it’s in the cloud doesn’t mean it’s protected. If you or an employee accidentally delete something from Gmail or salesforce.com, good luck getting it back unless you have a method of backup (and more importantly, restore).
Remember, files and folders are only part of your business operations. You need your applications, configurations and settings to run your business. A backup that takes a “snapshot” of your entire system including the data types above is called an “Image-Based Backup”. Having an Image-Based Backup and a quick way to restore this image is the difference between a simple backup solution, and a true business continuity solution. Business continuity enables you to recover entire systems and continue business as usual.
Now that we know the different types of data that need to be protected, the next step is understanding why your business can’t afford to be without protection. In part two of this series, we’ll tackle that question.
In the meantime, ask yourself what would you do if you lost all your business data?