Protect Your Company Against Disaster

Part II

In our last episode, we laid out the scary part – the vulnerability of your IT infrastructure. Most companies have data that is spread across servers, workstations, laptops, PDAs, floppy disks, CDs, sticky notes, and bar napkins. It is exactly this kind of fragmentation that makes the recovery from even a small disaster difficult, if not impossible.

In much the same way that you (hopefully) maintain your body to make it resistant to infection, deep fried food, and just one more before last call, your automation infrastructure must be conditioned to take a hit. Your data must be consolidated to a server that is protected, well maintained, and has redundant fail-safes.

Identify the data you need then go find it wherever it is. Make sure that your server has the storage space to hold it all and the speed and power to make it accessible by everyone who needs to. This is a good time to think about how old your server is, its warranty status, and whether its operating system has been patched to all the latest versions, including security patches. Microsoft has a product called the Baseline Security Analyzer, which can be downloaded free of charge from MICROSOFT (Click link to download) This program will analyze your servers and workstations and list all security vulnerabilities, including standard operating system patches. This will serve the dual purpose of getting your server software up to snuff while at the same time installing all necessary security patches. This utility should be run once a month.

Your server should also have electrical protection. It should have a “smart” UPS that will shut it down properly in the event of power loss. The purpose of the UPS is not to keep the server up and running as long as possible; its only purpose is to perform a proper shutdown of the server if main power is lost. The UPS battery should be tested periodically. These batteries do go dead after a couple of years and should be replaced as soon as that happens.

Anti virus protection is essential to your entire organization. Every computer on your network (and any computer that might be on your network, like a laptop, or a home computer that dials in to the office) should have virus protection that is regularly updated. Virus protection should also scan your incoming and outgoing e-mail. If you have more than 5 computers on your network, you should consider an enterprise version of anti virus software. Enterprise anti virus software is managed by the server--updates and regular scans are centrally controlled so that users don’t have to be responsible for it.

A study was done in which it was concluded that a computer hooked to the Internet will be hacked within 6 seconds. Throughout the world, there are hackers at their stations, hopped up on caffeine and candy bars, scanning IP addresses, looking for vulnerabilities. What they do when they find one, unfortunately, is completely up to them. Deleting your data, changing your administrative passwords, turning off your anti virus protection, delivering a virus, and flooding your network with packets that make it unusable are just some of the items in their bag of tricks. If your network is connected to the Internet you must have a firewall for protection. While it is true that some Internet service providers include a firewall with their service, this is not something that can be left to others; your firewall must be your own and managed by you. There are hardware and software firewalls available; a combination of both is effective.

The simplest definition of a backup is this:
A complete copy of your data in another location.

Break that down into its Latin root and here’s what you get:

1. A complete copy of your data. Any backup solution you implement must have sufficient capacity to back up all of your data, not just some of it. It is preferable that this backup be done in one pass, on one media, automatically, every night.

2. In another location. Whether you use tapes, DVDs, or floppy disks, they absolutely must leave your office every day. There are external hard drive or network hard drive solutions that stay connected to your server and continually back up your data. It is important to consider what happens if you have a fire or other calamity that destroys your office. In one shot, your server and your backup would be wiped out. If you use external drives for backup, get more than one and rotate them.

3. Making a backup of all your data and storing it somewhere else isn’t the whole story. If your office is destroyed, the tape or DVD that you have carefully kept offsite becomes the most important piece of plastic you’ve got, even more so than your corporate gold card. You have got to know that the media is good, has data on it, and is recoverable. The best way to do this is to regularly buy new tapes (once a year) and do periodic restores from the tapes (once a month). This will make sure your backups go both ways.

By this point, if you have been playing along, you have located your data, moved it to your server, built a wall around it of operating system patches, virus protection, hacker neutralization, and electrical fail-safes. You have set in place a daily backup of your server that leaves the office just like you do. At the same time, you have made sure the backup works by testing it regularly.

If you’re not nervous that all of your eggs are in one power-protected basket, you should be. In our next installment, we will talk about how to create a disaster plan.

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In each newsletter, we would like to welcome clients to our "family." If you would like to have your business highlighted, please call Carrie at:
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Disaster Recovery - Part 3
Creating Your Disaster Plan

About Our Organization:
Did you know that CSM is 11 years old this year?  
Computer Systems Management, Inc. is about service and about taking the extra steps needed to form lasting partnerships.  In addition to helping our corporate clientele, CSM serves the community by coordinating PC donations to low-income families and schools, providing free training classes to "welfare to work" participants, motivational assistance to GED students and on-the-job training to transitional workers.

Computer Systems Management Inc.; 
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