Merry Christmas

Along with the holidays, winter weather is fast approaching – are you prepared?  I’ve compiled a list of items to consider.  Let me know how we can help!

Phone system – do you have your holiday greetings in place?  Do you know how to activate the inclement weather mode?  Do key employees have the ability (and training) to know how to take an office phone home or access the phone system from a cell phone?

Network – are key employees able to connect to the office and work from home?  Do they know how to access your backup email if your server is down or loses connectivity?  Is your disaster recovery plan up to date, and readily available?

Office & Home – Do you have a good supply of ice melt and a good snow shovel on hand?  Has the furnace been serviced, with air filters recently changed?  Are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors working properly?

Car – Do you keep a good warm coat, hat, gloves and heavy blanket in the car?  How about a good flashlight, sand and a small shovel?  Also check the tread on your tires to ensure good traction.  Drive safely!

Don’t forget to let us review your phone & data bills.  We work with companies every day to evaluate their current bills for voice and data services (phone lines, Internet connectivity, branch office connections), discover their current needs, and align them with the best solutions.  Just this month I have helped two companies save more than $5,000 per year, and we’ve helped several companies save more than $50,000 per year!  However, we can help even if your telecom expenses are just a few thousand dollars per year. Give me a call – your bottom line will thank you.

Be aware that the hard drive shortage due to severe monsoon flooding in Thailand is ongoing.  Things are not too bad right now, but prices are still volatile and shortages are expected at some point in early 2012. If you have any questions, let me know!

The Storm of the Century

The storm of the century is coming!   As I write this blog entry, ice is accumulating, and Kansas City is in the bullseye of a major snowstorm, a blizzard with 12” of snow projected for our office and up to 20” nearby.  The weather people are coming on TV every 15 minutes in breathless anticipation.

Is your office prepared?  Winter storms are a huge drain on office productivity, with employees unable to make it to work due to bad roads, traffic snarls, and kids home from school.  However, with the appropriate technology in place, essential employees can be very productive working from home.

At Network Innovations, our AltiGen phone system allows our employees to have full access to the office phone system from our cell phones.  When you call our office, we can seamlessly answer the call, and even transfer it directly to another employee’s extension, all from our smart phones.  Clients don’t know we’re not at the office, they just know we are always available to help.

We also have a firewall and remote access server setup, that allow our laptops to connect from home.  This allows full, normal access to the company network.  With these two solutions tied together, our employees can operate identically from home or on the road.  Therefore, on bad weather days, we can close the office early, come in late, or work from home the entire day.

It’s a win-win-win – our office doesn’t suffer productivity hits during these bad storms, our employees aren’t stuck in traffic for hours at a time, they are home safe and sound with their families, and our clients still receive the world-class service they love!  Contact me today to ensure your office is ready!

A few other tips:
For myself, I have a cellular Internet connection for my laptop as a backup – if the power goes out in my home, I can usually still connect to the Internet via the cellular option.  This also allows me pull over to the side of the road and send an email in a pinch, or avoid $10/day Internet charges in a hotel.

Bad storms can also bring major power outages.  Make sure you have sufficient battery backup units at the office and at home.  The batteries in these units do go bad over time, just like any other battery – it’s important to ensure that they are tested regularly.  It may be appropriate for some businesses to invest in a generator powerful enough to run your back-end servers during extended outages.

We can also provide a Business Continuity server – this is a backup server that can “virtualize” or emulate any or all of your office servers.   This would allow you to quickly and easily setup a temporary office in another location if necessary.


National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month, so I thought this would be a good time to talk about Backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity.

First, it’s important to define these terms and understand how they fit together:

Backup, ensuring that a copy of your data is available for retrieval both onsite and offsite, is an IT function and is only part of a disaster recovery plan.

Disaster Recovery is a process and set of procedures that prepare for recovery or continuation of your technology infrastructure after a natural or human-induced disaster.  A Disaster Recovery plan is also typically an IT function, and it is one element of a larger business continuity plan.  Disaster Recovery plans typically assume that your facility will not be available.

Business Continuity is an ongoing exercise performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, regulators, and other entities that must have access to those functions.   Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is a management function that involves all aspects of a business, from personnel to facilities to IT.   Health & Safety issues, power supply, transportation, food, and facilities issues all fall within business continuity. 

Every business should put at least some effort towards creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).  Give me a call and I would be glad to help you with your plans.  In the meantime, let me share a few tips that can jumpstart your plans:

  • Backup:  A revolution in backup, a Backup & Disaster Recovery (BDR) device is now available for a small monthly fee.  This solution entails installing a “backup” server at your office.  It backs up all of your servers as often as every 15 minutes throughout the day.  You can recovery files quickly at anytime.  However, if one of your servers crashes, we can “virtualize” the most recent backup on the backup server, and have it back up and running in about an hour.  The crashed server can then be repaired under normal rather than emergency circumstances.  The BDR continues backing up even while standing in for your crashed server, so once your server is repaired, we simply restore the most recent backup and you are back to normal operation.  Further, the BDR sends your data offsite nightly to two secure locations.  In the event of a disaster,  a new BDR will be overnighted with your data already loaded.  We can virtualize your server(s) and have you running in a new location as soon as the delivery is received. 
  • Disaster Recovery:  We partner with a national disaster recovery service that can address the 4 primary disaster related issues:  Power, Technology, Space & Connectivity, with facilities and equipment staged throughout the US.  For only $295 per month, you are prepared to recover from any disaster, small or large.  For example, if a critical server crashes, we can provide a loaner.  If your Internet connection is cut, we can provide high speed satellite backup.  During an ice storm, you may simply need a generator.  In case of a large scale disaster, we can provide a fully running office with servers, 48 desks equipped with PCs and telephones, full power and connectivity within 48 hours, guaranteed. 
  • Business Continuity:  Lack of communication will cripple any business.  Create an emergency communication plan today:  Designate a person in another geographic region to serve as your emergency communication point of contact (POC).  This could be a friend, relative or partner – we use a vendor based in California.  Print business cards with full POC contact information and distribute to all employees to carry in their wallet.  In case of an emergency, if employees can not make contact with the office, they are to contact the emergency POC to check in, report their situation, and receive further instructions (could be check back in 12 hours, report to the office at noon, etc).  Want to show your key clients that you are a step ahead of the competition?  Provide them with your emergency POC information as well, and they will know they can count on you when they are in trouble.