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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: 2017 in Review

As 2017 now fades into the history books, we’re reflecting on the best and worst advances (or rollbacks) in technology.

THE GOOD - Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN)
2017 brought the explosion of SD-WAN, an amazing technology that provides high availability, failover, optimized traffic and in some cases a replacement for expensive MPLS.  SD-WAN is an affordable tech option for small and medium sized companies providing benefits once only available on an enterprise class budget.

THE BAD - Ransomware and Cyber Hacking
The worldwide pervasiveness of hacking has continued to dominate the headlines. No one is safe, whether you are a person checking your email and getting ‘spear phished’ or the Pentagon or UK National Health Service disabled by state sponsored cyber terrorism. In 2017 there didn’t seem to be anywhere safe from cyber criminals. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care, so in 2018 we’re doubling down on our vigorous backup and security regimens. While you can never be 100% safe, you can put a plan in place to mitigate disaster.

THE GOOD – Cloud Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity
2017 was the year the cloud really took off! Many companies have invested in comprehensive backup programs, but have not addressed what to do when disaster strikes. The ability to spin up servers and production networks in minutes as opposed to days or weeks, is now a reality with cloud solutions, making disaster recovery a minor headache instead of a full blow migraine.

THE BAD – Disrespecting The Technology
Computer networks are an integral component of every business, and you need to make sure you’ve got the tech that can do the job properly. In 2017 we still found companies buying technology that is just not suitable for business needs. From trying to get by with residential routers, or computers bought off the shelf at Best Buy. You’ve got to have the right tech to keep your company running. In 2018 don’t risk your business because you thought you were saving money. Remember the old adage: you get what you pay for.

THE GOOD – Internet of Things (IoT)
If you loved sci-fi as a kid you’ve probably been stoked by the advances in the IoT over the last several years. From vehicles with connected technology that allows manufactures and drivers to know when they need to be serviced or provide directions to the nearby gas station when the tank is running low to paying your mortgage by voice on your digital home assistant. This year was the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the IoT can bring to businesses. In 2018 watch these connected goodies for even more exciting innovations. 

THE UGLY – Dismantling Net Neutrality
The big fight for the web in 2017 was certainly a low point. The current administration’s FCC has begun the process of removing the laws protecting Net Neutrality, paving the way for ISP’s to preference their own content and throttle competitors. With Net Neutrality rules in place you the consumer can load every website, app, video, .gif, etc., equally, regardless of where the content is hosted, or what its message is. Accessing Netflix is the same as sending a tweet. Without Net Neutrality there’s nothing to stop ISP’s from demanding premium prices for “premium” services like video streaming, or social media, or blocking content they disagree with entirely. The open internet is vital to small businesses, and freedom of speech so this threat is very unsettling. Here’s to hoping in 2018 congress can get behind a bipartisan effort to save the open internet.

What were the trends you were most fascinated by in 2017? Tweet us with your top hits and misses, and what you’re most anticipating in 2018.

Don’t Let Power Problems Eclipse Your Business

With the great American eclipse just passed (hope you remembered your viewing glasses!) now is a great time to review your IT and power! California power providers had been working on a plan for two years to support the electrical grid when the eclipse took effect, in order to adjust for the substantial loss of solar power generation.  However, they still issued a warning that there could be potential power outages!

As a small business, you can’t afford to be caught without power; servers, network equipment, and other vital tech could all suddenly shutdown! Immeditaely causing you to lose money and productivity. Although the eclipse lasted for only for an hour or two, the damage to computer hardware and software comes from tech being suddenly turned off and the resulting spike in power when the grid comes back online.  

All your computer equipment should be protected by surge protection strips, but make sure you don’t go for the cheapest one you can find, as these offer little to no protection!  It’s best to get a surge protector that comes with a warranty to repair or replace equipment if damaged. Since turning off a server suddenly can corrupt operating systems and applications, your servers should have battery backup systems that automatically signal it to shutdown cleanly. 

Finally, now is a great time to double-check your backups! If the worst happens and your system is fried, knowing your backups are solid gives you the piece of mindto know you can get back to business quickly and with minimal loss. 

Remember, even though the Great American Eclipse has moved on, power problems are an ever present risk to your systems and your business. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, @MannassiIT, for more about protecting your business from anything life can throw at it! Stay tuned to our Facebook for our weekly exclusive tips, coming to you on Thursdays.

Respect the Tech!

I have been working with technology since 1984, and just when I think that I have seen everything another situation pops up that surprises and amazes me with the way people are so casual about their tech.  Since technology is so vital to our daily lives, you would think people would treat their computers and phones with at least a modicum of respect and attention. However, this is not usually the case.

Recently I went to see a new client and they showed me a desktop computer that had a ‘drive not found’ error. Such a serious drive error message isn’t great to begin with, but it was compounded when I asked about the backup and only got a blank stare, followed by the revelation that he has not done a backup in over 5 years. DOH! The hard drive is dead, and we have no way to restore his data.

That’s not the only tech slip up out there. Every day I hear stories about people at Starbucks sending confidential email via the free wifi. Come on people! Would you shout your social security number, address and date of birth across a crowded room? Hopefully not, so don’t do it via email either!

When investing in tech, don’t just go for the cheapest.  The saying “you get what you pay for” holds as true for tech as it does for anything else. Buying the no name brand computer, or a residential grade firewall for a business, will certainly come back and bite you in the @$$ and cost you an arm and a leg.

Networks are vulnerable to breach every minute of every day, unless you are constantly vigilant and take proactive steps to protect your systems and your data you are going to feel the pain of data loss and outages. It only takes a little extra effort to save yourself a lot of trouble.

Mannassi IT Solutions can help you find the right solutions for your business at the right price. Give us a call to chat about your options.

Follow us on twitter @MannassiIT or Facebook for all the latest on keeping your tech in great shape.

Not All Clouds Have A Silver Lining

Currently, there is a big push for businesses to move some or all of the their IT infrastructure to the cloud.  However, there is one thing that tends to get overlooked in the planning; that is the connection between the corporate office and the cloud servers.  Regardless of whether you have gone to public cloud with AWS, a hybrid, or a private cloud, that internet connection is now the keystone to your productivity. 

Here are four things to consider when planning your switch to the cloud:

  1. Can the internet current internet connection have sufficient bandwidth to support this extra traffic, over and above regular internet browsing? You may also want to implement a policy to prevent Internet slow down, such as restricting March Madness streaming on ESPN.
  2. Does you ISP provide a service level agreement so that in the event of an outage the repair work is started immediately and guarantees a return to service? Most cable, FiOS, & DSL connections (like Spectrum, Cox, Frontier, U-verse, & the like), make only a best effort and give you no bill credit for extended down time.
  3. Do you have a secondary/redundant internet connection from a different ISP? This will provide a failover option in the event that the primary ISP goes down.  Depending on the firewall you have, you may be able to load balance traffic over both connections, giving you better performance.
  4. Speaking of firewalls, this too is a single point of failure, a second firewall is key to redundancy.  Automatic failover is a common option on most business and enterprise class firewalls.

It may seem like, on the surface, having to pay for two internet connections is an unnecessary expense, but remember the last time your own internet went down & how frustrated you were. Now multiply that frustration by a factor of 1000 for you & your staff as you are unable to get any work done because your cloud servers are unavailable! Make sure your backup plans have backups so you’ll be prepared for any emergency.

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What's your plan?

Business interruptions can come in many different shapes & sizes! Recently in the news, the tenants of Real Office Space in Santa Monica got a surprise when they came in to find that their wi-fi and janitorial services had been shut down, and they were being asked to vacate the premises ASAP due to a lease dispute between ROC and the property owners that could not be resolved. The net effect for all these organizations is that they’re having to relocate quickly while still trying to do business.  Moving IT systems is a challenge even in the best-case scenario of a planned move, but an unexpected event means that the business impact could be dire. Situations like these are why having a complete and up to date disaster recovery and business continuity plan is essential.  This time the disaster is an eviction, next time it could be a fire, a flood, or an earthquake. 

So, what do you need to consider for your own disaster recovery plan? Here’s our three tips for a top shape disaster plan.

The three essential elements to consider for any disaster recovery plan:

Business Continuity: How will you keep business functioning? Will phone lines still ring, will employees be able to check their business emails? Sounds basic, but these stepping stones can make a huge difference to keeping your business on track.

Backup, backup, backup: You’ll be between a rock & a hard place if you must rebuild all your data from scratch after a disaster. Having an offsite or cloud based backup is vital to keeping recovery times short. Of course, backups only work if they are regularly updated. Make sure your important information is constantly backed up so when disaster strikes you don’t have to start from zero.

What comes next: Benjamin Franklin was right when he said “by failing to plan you are planning to fail”. Lay out steps to follow to get from disaster day one to services recovered. Knowing what you need to do, & letting staff know what they can expect makes everything go more smoothly, getting you back up & running without destroying your years of hard work.

Mannassi IT Solutions can help you get started on an effective DR & CR plan. We can give you the map to a quick recovery!

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