Most small businesses as well as most large businesses, all do their computing on the cloud these days, and for good reason. It’s flexible, it’s fast, it’s secure, and it allows you access to other applications on the cloud, that you wouldn’t have in-house normally. In fact, it’s not much of a stretch to say that computing on the cloud is fast becoming the norm for all business today, and if you still need a reason to migrate your business to the cloud, several of the best reasons for doing so are listed below.
Automatic Software Updates
One of the great things about cloud computing is that all servers are performed out of sight and off the premises. Your provider of cloud services handles all the maintenance and repair work necessary for servers, so that you don’t ever have to be involved. The same thing is true for updates to software such as security patches, which is another thing you don’t have to be bothered with. Because this is taken care of for you, you and your employees are free to concentrate on activities more central to your business.
If your company is one that has been steadily experiencing growth, you will undoubtedly be going through regular increases in bandwidth demand as your computing needs increase. If you were managing that in-house, you would probably have difficulty scaling up every time your business experienced a growth spurt, but thanks to the inherent scalability of cloud computing, it’s not something you need to worry about. Of course, it works the same way in reverse, and if you should need to scale down due to a downturn in business, the flexibility provided by cloud computing can accommodate that as well.
Your in-house teams can be much more effective and much more productive when they can edit and share documents wherever they happen to be, using any kind of device. There are all kinds of cloud-based sharing apps and workflows which allow users to make real-time updates, and which provide each user with full access to documents as needed. When your company employees can do things together, they can do it better as well, and that means your company benefits.
Even the smallest-sized businesses can now participate in disaster recovery programs, simply by positioning their business on the cloud and taken advantage of disaster recovery services offered by your provider. In fact, statistics show that small sized businesses are twice as likely to have implemented regular backup procedures on the cloud, as well as recovery procedures. Both these processes being in place will help small businesses avoid disaster, should business-critical data be compromised or corrupted in some way.
No Capital Expenditures
Cloud computing avoids the need to make large expenditures for computer equipment and network infrastructure, that would ordinarily be required for an on-the-premises setup for computing. Using the pay-as-you-go model for cloud computing, a subscription fee which is paid either annually or monthly is virtually the only cost associated with your computing. To extend this concept, you also don’t have to worry about periodically replacing that high-priced hardware equipment to keep it current and functioning optimally. All that is transparent to you, and is taken care of by your cloud services provider.
Losing a laptop machine has surprisingly become a billion-dollar enterprise in this country, and even worse than losing the machine itself, would be the security nightmare presented by losing company data contained on it. Cloud computing provides a hedge against this kind of scenario, since data would be stored on cloud servers rather than in the local environment. In addition, once you know you’ve lost your laptop for sure, the data on it can be remotely erased, so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Working from Anywhere
As long as you have an Internet connection, you can literally work from anywhere. Since virtually all cloud services also provide the capability for you to work with mobile apps, you’re also not restricted to using any specific kind of device. This allows cloud-connected companies to offer perks to their employees such as working from home, to create a better work-life balance, with no loss of productivity. Studies have shown that a majority of workers would sacrifice income for the ability to work from home, so this is a major perk which could be provided.
Moving to the cloud will provide you with world-class technology, which you can put to use to stay competitive with your rivals. It also levels the playing field between smaller businesses and the giant corporate concerns, since everyone has access to the same technology. If there’s only one move you could make to become more competitive, migrating your business to the cloud should be that one move.
In the past, collaboration between employees often got to become somewhat nightmarish in execution, with employees sending files back and forth, often in the form of email attachments, so that each could work on a task sequentially. When you migrate your business to the cloud, files are centrally stored and managed, so that everyone sees a single version of the most current file. This increased visibility fosters much better collaboration, and that in turn impacts productivity, and the bottom line for your company.
It is estimated that as many as 50% of small businesses have no backup plan at all for security and recovery to protect against cyber-attack or to secure themselves against garden-variety downtime. In a recently conducted survey, 41% of small business owners consulted said that they had not even given much thought to implementing a backup plan or steps for data recovery.
Some owners also cited the high cost of implementing such a program and indicated that it was their decision to defer the process until business became more profitable, or until backup and recovery costs became more affordable.
The question is – can you really afford not to have a backup plan and recovery measures in place when the high cost of downtime might be the consequences of having no plan at all? Of course, many small business owners may simply be hoping that their companies are not the ones which will be impacted by downtime, or by attacks from cybercriminals, so they rely on good luck to see them through.
This strategy will work fine – right up until the time it doesn’t. If your small business is ever confronted with the real-life situation of an extended period of downtime, or having your business-critical data hijacked by a clever cyber-criminal, you’ll understand a little better about the true value of having a formal backup plan and recovery plan in place.
On the other hand, some small businesses with very meager resources may feel that they simply can’t afford to implement such formalized plans. If you’re on the fence about this and wondering whether the cost of backup and recovery plans is justified by a disaster that might happen, you can consider some of the questions below to help clarify your thinking on the matter.
Backup and Recovery Cost Justification Questions
What would be the impact on your company if customers could not access their data every day, and how would employee productivity be affected on a daily basis, if your network was completely shut down?
What kind of backup and recovery plans do you have in effect right now, and how long could your business survive if it were forced to endure an extended period of downtime?
What kind of support could you quickly access from I.T. personnel, and could that support be enlisted quickly enough so as to reduce downtime damage?
What is the confidence level that you can get back online quickly enough that there will be minimal disruption to the company, and to customers who rely on your company?
How often does your most important data get backed up? Do your employees have a lot of company data on their smartphones, iPads, or business laptops? Are your backups stored off-site, and are they protected against damage which might occur to your business location?
Does your company make use of any custom-developed software, and is the original developer of that software still in business, so that it could be recovered in the event of theft or corruption?
Do you have all your licensing agreements, account details, and information about security stored in a central location somewhere, and is there a copy of it off-site?
Do you feel you have adequate protection against viruses and cyber-attacks and do you apply all security patches as soon as they are made available by the appropriate vendors?
Do you have a company policy in place which calls for the changing of passwords any time a new employee comes in, or when a current employee exits?
How frequently do you check your backup and recovery processes, to make sure that they are performing as intended, and that there are no flaws in the process?
Can You Afford to not Have a Backup Plan?
As a small business owner, it would be well worth your while to arrange a meeting periodically, with managers and other important employees in your company, so as to review the issues raised in the questions above. If these questions are answered accurately and honestly, it should help to clarify in everyone’s minds exactly what the risks and rewards are, relative to establishing and maintaining a good data backup and recovery plan.
Some small business owners simply feel that their business is too small to justify the expense of implementing formal I.T. procedures like data backup and recovery and that this belongs more in the realm of Big Business. However, by considering some of the questions raised in this article, you should be able to figure out whether or not you could actually survive an extended period of downtime or data loss, regardless of the cause.
If it becomes clear that your business would not survive if you are forced off-line for several days or longer, then you should really consider implementing the programs necessary for data backup and recovery. These days, a great many I.T. services are available as an on-demand service, rather than having to pay the cost of I.T. personnel, hardware, and software all by yourself. Even small businesses should be able to find a vendor willing to supply I.T. as a service, to help you protect your important data, and avoid business disaster. With all of the relevant factors assessed and a suitable backup plan in place, you can remain confident in the security of your business-critical data.
What Is the Cloud?
“The cloud” is one of those popular tech topics people talk about but can’t always define. The cloud is essentially a network of servers that does two types of things. One kind of cloud server stores data and while the other uses its computing power to help applications run.
We all come across the cloud frequently in everyday life, especially for storage. Every time you use an app like Instagram, a cloud server is what holds the pictures uploaded to your account. These photos are not saved in your phone’s internal memory, but rather in Instagram’s network of servers. Dropbox is also an example of a cloud server. Every time you save something on your computer that doesn’t take up your computer’s memory, you are using the cloud.
Other companies like Adobe use the cloud to deliver services. Previously you could buy the Adobe Creative Suite™ in a physical box. Now, all of these tools exist in the cloud and users pay a subscription fee to access them in the Adobe Creative Cloud™.
How the Cloud Benefits You
When businesses decide to move their resources to the cloud, overhead costs can be reduced. Before cloud technology became widespread, businesses would have to purchase hardware and computer applications that lost their value over time. With the cloud, applications previously downloaded on physical computers are now run and updated through the Internet.
Businesses can also be more flexible with their resources. The cloud allows them to pay for only what they use since cloud computing is a subscription-based service. It can also accommodate for businesses that have growing bandwidth demands since cloud capacity can be scaled up and down easily. This kind of agility makes these services cost-effective and adaptive.
The cloud can make your business more secure in a variety of ways. Lost laptops are a security breach for companies every year because many of them contain highly sensitive information. Not only that, valuable documents may be lost forever when devices are misplaced.
With cloud computing, you can access files at any time via your Internet connection. This allows you to remotely wipe the memory of lost devices and not have to worry about information falling into the wrong hands.
The cloud benefits the environment by decreasing your carbon footprint, by reducing unnecessary hardware and only using the required amount of cloud storage. Even in the digital age where more and more companies are going paperless, sustainability is important.
Is the Cloud Secure?
Contrary to popular belief, the cloud is quite secure. However, it requires you to take measures to personally secure your company’s data. When businesses “move to the cloud,” it requires that you have knowledgeable security staff that understands what that entails. Your team must know that the data you are moving is sensitive, and apply end-to-end encryption to the data during both storage and transfer process.
A recent study found that 82% of public databases are not encrypted. Make sure the cloud provider you are using suits your data needs and has what it takes to keep your files secure. Whatever service you choose, it is still the job of the user to define who can access the data, move it, add data, etc., and how those permissions change with each cloud provider. Defining these terms is known as Identity Access Management (IAM).
In addition to these steps, it is wise to back up your data in separate fault domains. Fault domains are basically stacks of servers. They include features that, in the case of a network failure, make sure only the server with the failure would stop working. This means you have multiple copies of your data, achieving maximum file resiliency.
Cloud Computing Creates a Level Playing Field
Anyone can utilize cloud computing services since they are inexpensive and require only an Internet connection to access. It also allows small and growing companies to use enterprise-level technology, and even make faster business decisions than larger, more established companies.
Cloud networks facilitate collaboration from your team members, meaning that they can work and share files with everyone, from anywhere. Cloud-based workflow applications allow real-time remote collaboration and streamline communication. Gone are the days of attaching files to emails and ending up with incompatible file formats, and ineffective version-control.
Moving data to the cloud means that even the smallest companies are becoming more globally involved. Since growing businesses can be financially nimble using cloud computing services, they can now disrupt a market dominated by Fortune 500 corporations.
If you need assistance in moving data to the cloud, don’t hesitate to contact Geek-Aid. We’re here for all of your technology needs and computer repair questions.
One way or another, accidents happen. It’s worse is when something happens to your precious hard drive. An important tool like this carries crucial data that you absolutely cannot lose. If a situation like this were to occur, do not panic. There is some hope. Follow these steps and you just might be able to recover lost data from your hard drive.
Analyze the Problem
The first thing you need to figure is how you lost your data in the first place. If you can figure that out, then you can know the best way to recover your information. During that time, try to use your computer as little as possible. That creates new data, which can overwrite files and lower your chances of retrieving your lost data.
The Best Ways to Recover Lost Data
- Did You Throw in the Trash? – Did you happen to accidently hit delete on one of your files? If data goes missing, the recycle bin should be the first place you check. Nothing is ever completely deleted – at least not at first. Your computer will keep deleted files for a certain amount of time before purging them. By simply opening the recycle bin and restoring that data, you can have it back in your possession.
- Backup Frequently – Backing up your hard drive should be a bi-monthly ritual. When you back up your hard drive, you save another version of its data at that point in time. So, if you lose your data, your backup may have the latest version of those files.
- Prepping for an Extremely Dire Situation – Sometimes, recovering your data is not as simple as checking the recycle bin or using a backup. In that case, we suggest using recovery software. It may cost you some money, but it can scan the area where you lost your files and retrieve them from whatever invisible digital space they disappeared into.
If you are in need of data recovery, contact us at Geek Aid. One of our Geeks can walk you through the steps to recover you lost information.
When it comes to treatment of disease, early detection is vital. However, this is a catch-22 when related to patient files because of privacy issues. You want to be able to look at the data and know which screenings are the most appropriate, but you legally can’t disclose much of the relevant data to a team of statisticians. Mathematicians are trying to give you a way around this.
Keeping Patient Files Anonymous
The first step in maintaining privacy is altering patient data so that the patient is anonymous. This may sound like it defeats the purpose, but there are computer programs that can use the changed data just as effectively as the real data. While the data is no longer attached to an individual in any significant way, it is still relevant for the sake of observing trends and looking at summaries of statistics.
Researchers are working hard to ensure that the changed data does not result in statistics that have been altered. The computer system looks at the answers to yes and no questions like:
- Is the patient overweight?
- Does the patient smoke?
- Is there a family history of illness?
Then it turns this data into geometric patterns. Now, while disguised as shapes, the data is still there for the computer to see, while the patients remain anonymous. How does this help a practice to treat patients?
The data can be collated, and statistics can be determined. At the same time, no one ever sees the name of a particular patient while doing data entry or figuring up the statistics. In this way, patients are protected, but health care providers still get much-needed data to determine the importance of various types of screening and other preventative measures.
Computers and the Health Care Industry
Patient privacy is a vital aspect of the health care industry despite the fact that we live in a digital age of information sharing. You need an agency to help you navigate the line between storing data and protecting data. After all, you want to be able to provide patients with the best possible care while submitting to the law.
When it comes to cyber threats, most security focuses on external threat assessment. We often ask what may happen next, and then respond reactively, rather than performing an internal data security audit and proactively taking steps to shore up defenses.
Examine Your Network to Improve Data Security
Here are a few things you should know about your own network that will help you keep it more secure.
- Know Your Data – Regardless of what of data or how much information your system stores, you need to take inventory in order to assess First all, what type of information do you need to protect (company files, employee info, customer info, financial data, R&D, etc.). Second, know the location of the data. Is it stored locally, in the cloud, or both? Do you have offsite backups? What data is the most critical?
- Know Your Software – Every system that is installed in your network should be there for a reason. Eliminate unused software. Keep all loaded software up to date and configured properly for maximum security.
- Profile Configurations – Know everyone who has a login to your systems. Require strong passwords, and educate employees on how to avoid phishing attacks that can steal employee credentials and give hackers an in to your system.
While these are not the only 3 elements of a security audit, the important takeaway is to regularly audit in-house security methods to be sure that everything possible is being done to avoid a cyberattack. When you know the threats that exist in-house and shore up those defenses, you are in a better position to evaluate external threats to your organization.
Sometimes it can be important to have an objective eye. This means calling for a data security audit from an external source, preferably a company experienced with the type of data you need secured, as well as the systems that your company uses. Such a security company can then offer viable solutions to eliminate cracks in your organization’s digital security measures.
In the present world of data breaches and the financial consequences that come with them, it is more important to your business than ever to be protected.
Is Your Educational Institution Protected from Cyber Terrorism?
When we think about major hacks and cyber terrorism, usually places like banks and governments jump out. For example, in one recent incident, a foreign nation possibly spied on the US, and the FBI doesn’t know what information may or may not have been accessed. Of course, any time money is involved, a hack becomes a big deal, which is why we think about banks. But one of the most affected sectors seems to get the least attention.
Is “one recent exploit” THE RIGHT/ best way to say whatever…
Wasn’t the info hacked, rather than “LEAKED”?
Statistically, what four sectors are most frequently breached?
• Financial (insurance, investments, real estate, etc.)
Did you notice government and banks are not on the list, but educational institutions are? So what’s the big deal when schools get hacked? Isn’t it just kids stealing test scores or changing grades? Maybe this is true in the movies.
In real life, educational facilities are the number 5 location for lost data, which leads to fraud and identity theft. School cyber terrorism is fast becoming an issue.
Schools get hacked for the same reason other industries are targeted. Schools keep personally identifiable information (PII) on students, and private schools, like universities, may also have financial information. Statistics show that while only 3 out of 10 educational facility hacks are after school records, 8 out of 10 result in the theft of PII.
Why Are Schools an Easy Target?
Most hackers are opportunists, and actually, schools remain fairly easy to hack. Why? Most schools are online now because it has become a major part of teaching. Records are also readily accessible online. However, schools often do not have the experienced IT department of major banks or the government. Malware, easily downloaded accidentally by students or teachers, remains one of the main ways in for hackers.
How Can Your Educational Facility Protect Itself?
It is time to develop a strategy for warding off cyber-attacks. At some point, it may become necessary to outsource network protection. Some of the important keys are:
• Monitoring tools designed to help identify problems
• Minimizing the number of logins with full access to records
• Regular updates and patches
• Education for teachers and students to reduce malware, spyware, and trojan downloads
• Anti-malware programs for auto-detection and protection
• Strong passwords
• A network firewall
I think most people agree, our technology can never have too much data storage. This is especially true as video becomes the primary medium through which we communicate and entertain ourselves. Whether watching, sharing, or editing, storage is the key. Speed is important too, however, which leads many to wonder: Why don’t solid state drives dominate the market?
While solid state drives may have a big advantage in performance over platter-based HDD drives, the expense of SSD is the major factor keeping HDD alive. One hard drive producer, Seagate, has now produced an HDD to stretch the bounds of storage further than ever before, and both the size and cost-efficiency of the drive are equally impressive.
This new 2 terabyte drive is a mere 7 mm thick. They were able to do this by stacking two plates on top of each other. The drive, in total, is only 2.5 inches in size. That also allowed them to drop the weight down to just over 3 ounces. Enter, the Cadillac of HDDs.
So what is the future for Seagate? Are even smaller and lighter HDDs with more drive space in our future? Actually, reports from the company orient the future toward hybrid drives. It’s a smart move. Seagate has created drives with tons of HDD storage and a NAND module to increase the speed without the substantial price jump that separates HDD and SSD.
What you can do today with 2 TB of storage:
- Store 500,000 songs
- 320,000 images
- 240 hours of HD video
- 26 hour of UHD video
The size of the drive makes it perfect for the next generation of laptops with larger data storage, but the amount of storage will rival desktop computers as well. The future may be SSDs and hybrid drives, but today belongs to this 2 TB beauty.
This is a common question when it comes to technical assistance. One of the most common problems that consumers have with a hard drive is the failure of a sector. Let’s discuss what sectors are, why they go bad, and how data can be recovered.
A sector is just a small section of the data that is stored on your drive. If your computer is a few years old, each sector may only hold as little as .5Kb of data. More recent machines hold about 4Kb per sector. It is a tiny amount of data, but it can throw off a lot if there is a failure. While the sector only holds a fragment of a file, without that fragment the file may not open properly or may take a long time to load.
Why Do Sectors Fail?
Depending on the model hard drive that you are using, the drive may spin from 5-15,000 RPMs. Not only is that speed a strain on drive sectors, but it also creates a lot of heat – technology’s worst enemy. Over time, this causes stress to the hardware at the molecular level.
The part of a hard drive that contains stored data is basically a film of magnetic material. It does not take much to cause damage. As damage occurs, it may simply take longer to open files. As the number of bad sectors increase, it is a strong indicator that hard drive failure is imminent. Your best bet is to back up your data and abandon the drive.
Can I Prolong the Inevitable?
Again, your best bet is to have a backup. Other than that, try to reduce heat on your device as much as possible. For example, you may want an external fan for your laptop.
Can I Rescue the Data?
If you lose data without a backup, do not give in to despair. Nine times out of 10, a well-trained, professional service with experience in data recovery can retrieve your data.
Remotely Erase Data: Deletion with SecureDrives
Remotely erase data: This hard drive will self-destruct in the amount of time it takes to send a text message.
In a world where privacy and security are at the forefront of people’s minds, that’s pretty much what everyone wants to hear. It’s no longer just a thing of spy movies. Thanks to SecureDrives, a tech company based in London, any business or individual can have an external hard drive with a kill switch. They look like a normal portable drive, but all it takes is one text to make the device unusable and unrecoverable.
At a mere two and a half inches, the drive is tiny and easy to transport. You get 128 GB of solid state drive that you can connect via USB. If you prefer an internal hard drive with a self-destruct, it has a SATA II connection as well. It’s the perfect hard drive when you have to store sensitive data.
While a text is by far the coolest way to crash the drive, it’s not the only option you get. You can program the device to self-destruct in a number of ways: if the battery level gets too low (not sure how I feel about that one); if pin code entries are mistyped repeatedly; when the drive is removed from the PC (just don’t forget you have that setting on if you have to move the drive); or if it loses the GSM signal for longer than the amount of time that you set.
So, what does it do? Erase the data, but leave it available for recovery programs? Of course not! It actually destroys the NAND chip as well as the security controller. According to the company, there’s no way to recover the deleted data after this happens.
Super spy tech isn’t cheap, and the ability to remotely erase data goes for over a thousand pounds (which works out to about $1,650 USD). You get the first year of GSM for free. It’s $47/year after that.