Prime Telecommunications Offers Innovative Cloud Disaster Recovery Solutions

Prime Telecommunications, Inc., a leader in unified communications, announced today that it has launched a program that focuses on cloud-based data safety. This program is aimed to help small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to effectively store, manage, and transfer their critical business files seamlessly while simultaneously increasing the overall security of all of their business files. Whether employees are utilizing files on their servers, laptops, workstations or smartphones, this Cloud Disaster Recovery Program will change the way that business owners handle their sensitive corporate and financial information.

For those who aren’t yet familiar, disaster recovery, is a set of policies and procedures which enable the recovery or continuation of vital technology infrastructure and systems following a natural or human-induced disaster. The majority of enterprise-level organizations have recognized the blatant need for disaster recovery programs because they focus on strengthening the underlying IT or technology systems supporting critical business functions, especially in moments of need. For example, when an organization starts growing and adds on more staff, there are more possibilities for human-induced disasters or data theft. An accidental deleted or misplaced file can can cost companies dozens of hours in lost producitity. Futhermore, with more staff come more devices, which in an increasing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment, means that there are more vulnerability points for hackers to enter the network. When businesses begin to scale, these productivity interruptions are no longer tolerable.

“When a business begins its growth trajectory, it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the success,” stated Vic Levinson, President at Prime Telecommunications. “We know that feeling. It’s so rewarding to see your business growth outpacing your operating expenses and all of the years of sacrifice make it completely worth it. It’s so easy to kick your feet up, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor in that moment, however, this is precisely when businesses need to take the steps to protect themselves so they can continue to grow at that same rate. This is when they are most susceptible to virtual disasters and without a comprehensive disaster recovery plan and cloud technology that is engineered specifically to shrug off these types of disturbances, they are putting that stable growth at risk.”

In years prior, many businesses were hesitant to purchase cloud-based disaster recovery solutions because they required large, up-front capital expenditures. Prime Telecommunications’ cloud disaster recovery program breaks this pattern because its on a pay-as-you go model, so businesses only pay for what they use, enabling them to scale up and down their disaster recovery program in perfect sync with the pace of their businesses. It’s file syncing, syncing with business growth, syncing with a cost structure that makes this technology easy to implement into any growth-oriented SMB.

Cloud For Non Profits

Cloud for non ProfitsThe cloud comes with many benefits such as ease and convenience for organizations with little-to-no IT staff, cost efficiency, and the reduction in CapEx due to the eliminated need to purchase hardware. Non-profit companies can realize many of these benefits by moving their infrastructure and computing from on-site to off-site, eliminating a lot of the responsibility, hassle, and cost from managing in-house hardware.

According to Nonprofit Technology Network1’s survey,over 90% of respondents use some kind of cloud-based software, and 80% use more than one cloud solution for non-critical applications. But the benefits of cloud computing technology can expand beyond that.

Why the cloud?

So how can cloud computing address the issues and obstacles that organizations have to deal with? There are multiple ways.

Cloud computing leads to improved efficiency, which is useful for any type of organization. Additionally, moving to the cloud can reduce costs by eliminating the refresh cycle of hardware as well as management and monitoring. The cloud can help increase visibility, and allows organizations to benefit from the latest advancements in technology, especially when it comes to security, compliance and data privacy.

Cloud computing has already been proven as a valuable resource for organizations, but of course, it takes some preliminary research to get the best solution. Choosing a great provider is key, as is defining organizational strengths and weaknesses. Cloud computing can address the specific needs of a nonprofit, due to its wide range of benefits and customizable nature. What’s better than fixing your exact problems while saving money and re-focusing your team?

Now, let’s delve deeper into the benefits of cloud computing.


Mobility

The cloud allows organizations to benefit from flexibility and accessibility, but this is especially beneficial for nonprofits. These organizations have people working everywhere – there are constant off-site projects happening, remote writers or participants, and board members who are constantly on the road. With cloud computing, it’s easy to access data from any location, at any time, using any computing device. That means 24x7x365 access to necessary information. Better yet, it’s easy to collaborate and share data with users, regardless of location. These organizations have to be flexible, and with the cloud, they can be. This will improve efficiency and allow for real-time communication, action and insight.

Cost Savings

With cloud computing, nonprofit organizations can eliminate hardware, software and IT costs, lowering their Total Cost of Ownership and moving their focus to more important things. Things like older hardware that may be closer to replacement time can have it’s life extended since the cloud operates independently from the physical hardware. The cloud provider handles the equipment, installation, maintenance, upgrades and time commitment of the necessary computing resources. The nonprofit, on the other hand, simply pays to use these resources via a pay-as-you-go plan. This means a nonprofit organization can use the resources it needs, when it needs them, while scaling back whenever necessary.

Security

In a TechSoup survey of nonprofits, 45% of respondents cited data security as a major concern about cloud computing.Just like any other organization, nonprofits need to make sure they’re secure! Nonprofits face increased compliance and privacy requirements, so security is top of mind. With the cloud, organizations have availability to enterprise-level hardware and security without the expense of purchasing it all. By consuming their “piece of the pie” an orgnaization is able to experience high-level security within some of the best data centers in the country. Thanks to the cloud, organizations of all sizes and all backgrounds can experience the benefits of top notch security, backups and disaster recovery, regardless of budget.

Nonprofit organizations don’t always have availability to resources when it comes to IT and data security. Cloud providers can become that resource. They invest a lot in computing and security expertise and resources, allowing nonprofits to benefit from higher levels of security than they ever could have previously been able to access.

Rather than using a few resources, or picking and choosing what’s absolutely essential, nonprofits can have it all. They can access everything they need for at budget-friendly prices. The cloud vendor simply helps incorporate the latest standards and controls.

Focus

Thanks to the scalability, reduced costs, security and mobility that the cloud provides, nonprofit organizations have a chance to re-focus and strengthen their efforts. With cloud computing, nonprofits can better manage outreach and fundraising and focus both their attention and resources on their causes, advocacy and extremely important work.

According to Blackbaud, the majority of nonprofits are already using the cloud for common tasks like file storage and email, but only about 15% are using it as a greater resource than that. Few nonprofits currently use the cloud for accounting, fundraising database resources or mission-critical applications. And it’s time to change that! The cloud model allows nonprofits, along with other organizations, to take advantage of the greatest IT services and resources without needing sophisticated technology knowledge or huge budgets. Instead, nonprofits are able to focus on their mission, while the provider handles the rest. 

Take Advantage Of Network Security – An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure

In the minutes, hours and days that follow a widespread, widely publicized data breach, most companies scramble, amping up their security measures in an effort to overcompensate for their lack of proactive preparation. A Forrester Research study revealed that more than 45 percent of businesses opt to increase security and audit requirements after an attack occurs. But as our grandmothers always say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Basically, Grandma was trying to say that a proactive approach to security—versus a reactive one—helps to ensure that your business is protected without having to learn the hard way.

While a lax data security plan may be the most detrimental of business strategies, a close second is taking a “one and done” approach. In reality, true data and network protection requires constant effort —it’s not a checklist to be completed, filed away and forgotten. System security, as a whole, is a moving target with new threats and vulnerabilities popping every day and from all angles. Which means one security solution may become outdated just as quickly as it was implemented. Without dedicated resources and the training required to implement and monitor advanced security solutions, organizations are basically sitting ducks, putting their corporate assets at greater risk.

Network Security

So where do you start? System protection begins with a thorough risk vulnerability assessment—and trust me, there are plenty of vulnerabilities to look for. For example, consider the impact of Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD), with its myriad of points at which employees may unknowingly compromise corporate network security. Or take into account the rising threat and increased variety of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. From organized crime rings to hacktivists to foreign government hacking attempts, the complexities and motives are changing by the day.

By identifying the most vulnerable points within your current system and workflow, you can then start to draft a strategy and analyze potential solutions. Creating a customized security plan, one that’s tailored to addressing those vulnerabilities head-on, is foundational to a solid strategy. Your plan may include simple items, such as creating and implementing a formal BYOD policy. Or you may need more comprehensive protection, enhancing your network and cloud security through a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or bringing in a variety of tactical solutions, such as firewalls, antivirus, OS hardening, intrusion detection and web filtering as applicable. A complete security solution should protect your data and applications from all angles — network, cloud and employee communication—to mitigate any threat to your data.

Part of a successful security plan, however, is allocating enough staff and resources to support that plan. The best-protected systems are those that are constantly managed by a dedicated IT team. If, in your risk assessment efforts, you find that you’re lacking resources to provide ongoing support and monitoring, a Managed Network Security Solution may be the answer.

Our Managed Network Security Solutions provide not only security, but also the team that can support your security mission. We offer 24 x 7 x 365 management and monitoring, going beyond protecting PC desktops with custom, comprehensive real-time protection against attacks, defending and protecting your entire office-computing environment against the latest generation of Internet threats.

Take the first step toward achieving system security and contact a Prime representative today. Remember that ounce of protection? When we’re talking about data security, it’s worth WAY more than a pound of cure.

5 Ways to Convince Your CIO to Move to the Cloud

CIO-priorities

Chief Information Officer.

The meaning of that title has changed pretty drastically since the introduction of cloud computing. Traditionally the CIO focused on purchasing hardware and software, overseeing implementation, maintenance and security, and simply making sure everything worked.

Then came the cloud and an absolute reliance on technology in the business world. Suddenly, everything has to be better and faster, but also cheaper. The CIO has turned into a leader and strategist, instead of simply a maintenance person. This role includes keeping up with ever-changing technology, delivering business value, focusing on growth and the competitive landscape, identifying problems and solutions and choosing new tools to implement. Though the role has changed, it will continue to be valuable and demanding.

But some CIOs still haven’t moved to the cloud, despite it’s impact on the role. There are many reasons to make the move, and the CIO and business will ultimately benefit. Here are five convincing reasons to move to the cloud:

1. Spend Less and Get More

With a utility-based payment model, the cloud has proven to be extremely cost effective. The technology reduces operational costs overall, while also saving in countless other areas. Organizations will reduce IT spending, as well as spending on purchasing and maintaining expensive hardware. And since the cloud provider manages upgrades and maintenance, the IT team is free to tackle other important projects. While these savings occur, businesses simply pay a monthly fee, based on their usage of the cloud services. The cloud makes computing and IT resources much more affordable, allowing businesses of all sizes to experience the latest technology. Seven in 10 respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the cloud environment had delivered significant efficiencies and cost savings – and it’s this fact that is driving cloud adoption today.

2. You Can’t Use What You Don’t Know

But lowered costs isn’t the only reason to move to the cloud, though it’s one of the most well-known. With the cloud, CIOs are able to access and use valuable business insights, thanks to advanced analytic capabilities. Today, organizations can truly utilize data for business strategy and reporting. You can better manage your own growing data while accessing new sources of data to gain amazing insight. With these insights, businesses can meet their goals, develop strategies and grow significantly.

3. See Productivity on All Levels

With cloud computing, productivity improves in your employees as well as in your hardware.

Users are able to remotely access their files and documents from anywhere, at anytime, using any computing device. And that means they can work freely, no matter where they are. They will be more productive while having greater capabilities for collaboration. This also trickles down to customers, who will experience better customer service when your employees can quickly respond to problems.

More specifically, the IT department will be able to switch gears. Instead of focusing on the constant tasks of updating software and licenses, dealing with security breaches, and maintaining equipment, they can turn their focus to innovation and business improvement. The cloud provider will handle automatic updates and behind-the-scenes management.

In terms of hardware, you’ll simply get more use out of what you already have while experiencing great reliability. It’s rare for on-site servers to operate at more than about 20% of their capacity, and that means that a lot of resources go to waste. With the cloud, you use virtual machines that increase this efficiency, allowing servers to operate at higher capacity. This leads to better hardware performance, cost savings and productivity. Additionally, cloud computing better handles all types of failures and creates true reliability. With redundancy, the cloud maintains your data, even if you lose access to a certain machine or a data center experiences downtime.

4. Who says the cloud isn’t secure?

There is still much disagreement surrounding security in the cloud, but cloud providers are standing up to the challenges. While some people worry about the risk, many are finding they receive better security in the cloud than they traditionally had in-house. That’s because cloud vendors can stay up to date on the latest technology and devote more time and personnel to security. What’s more, the vendors are completely aware that this is a big obstacle, so they’ve focused on security substantially in recent years.

Problems that do arise with security tend to originate from the management of the service, rather than the virtual cloud location. In other terms, security isn’t a cloud-specific problem. It’s a human problem. The factor behind 95% of security breaches is human error. And that simply means organizations need to do their research before choosing a provider, because not all providers are equal. The cloud should majorly simplify security processes, and a great provider should have dozens of measures in place to protect data.

While security used to be a major factor hindering cloud adoption, today it’s a key factor for migrating. 94% of cloud adopters say it produces security benefits, and more than 50% of IT professionals rank security as a top reason for moving applications to the cloud. Those numbers certainly display the change of heart businesses are having in terms of security in the cloud.

And the fact is this: if your business doesn’t move to the cloud, your employees will. They will find easier ways to do things, whether that’s using an online service like Dropbox or Google Drive, or adding applications to their mobile devices. And honestly, it’s better if you know how your users are accessing their data. The only way to give them the freedom and flexibility they want while maintaining necessary control over confidential business information is to move to the cloud.

5. Meet All Business Demands

Maybe you’re in a business where content spikes naturally come or go. Or maybe you’re in a period of major business growth. Whatever the situation is, scalability is extremely valuable for any organization. To meet these business demands, you can either continue to buy more and more equipment that will soon be obsolete, or you can move to the cloud. Scalability, or elasticity, is the ability of a provider or an application to instantly and automatically provision compute capacity to meet spikes in demand. You can support business growth without making expensive or timely changes to your current setup. It’s quick and easy to get the resources you need – as described above, you simply pay for what you need, when you need it. The cloud provider ensures that overloading is never a concern, as its team will manage the servers within the data center.

Better protect data in event of natural disasters, power outages, employee errors or emergency situations

Nearly every business, especially in recent years, has become so inextricably reliant upon their data in order run their company. Simply put, data must be available to anyone who needs it and it must be available at the exact right time. Unfortunately, most companies still use an inferior form of data backup such as tape or external hard drives. Furthermore, lost or misplaced data creates unnecessary company downtime dragging operations to a screeching halt, which is out of the question for most of today’s businesses.

With nearly everyone depending on a strong IT infrastructure, it’s no wonder why businesses are scrambling to find the ideal form of data protection and backup. With plans ranging from manual disk backup to off-site backup to sophisticated cloud-based disaster recovery programs, the demand for this technology is clearly evident. The overarching goal of any disaster recovery program is to ensure that in the event of any natural disaster (earthquake, fire, flood, tornado) power outage or user error that a company’s data remains undamaged and is immediately retrievable. Prime Telecommunications’s cloud-based disaster recovery program, takes this technology one step further, in that it allows businesses to continue running smoothly, even during the midst of a disaster or employee error like deleting a crucial folder off the LAN. Essentially, for the first time, Prime Telecommunications’s customers can now shrug off a disaster, and continue running their business as normal.

Business owners have been quick to recognize the massive value associated with a disaster-proof business and the drastic reduction, if not elimination, of company downtime. This evolution in cloud-based disaster recovery has been heavily anticipated and Prime Telecommunications is proud to be among the few organizations leading the charge for this powerful technology. They are actively deploying their cloud-based disaster recovery program in the offices of many of their customers, across a multitude of industries.

At the end of the day, it’s about keeping our customers protected. When we can deliver a proactive, redundant, cloud-based program like this, we can keep our customers connected with their data so that they can keep running no matter what life throws at them. It’s such an overwhelming competitive advantage to eliminate company downtime and we’re absolutely thrilled to deliver this to our loyal customer base.

We believe that by providing our customers with competitive advantages, it gives them a leg up in their industry. Perhaps that’s why we’ve been fortunate to continue growing over the years, because of our outlook on ensuring mutual success.

What do you do? 

New Threat: CryptoLocker Ransomware Virus

This is a Reposting: Important from US CERT

 

National Cyber Awareness System:

11/05/2013 10:58 AM EST
Original release date: November 05, 2013 | Last revised: November 06, 2013

Systems Affected

Microsoft Windows systems running Windows 7, Vista, and XP operating systems

Overview

US-CERT is aware of a malware campaign that surfaced in 2013 and is associated with an increasing number of ransomware infections. CryptoLocker is a new variant of ransomware that restricts access to infected computers and demands the victim provide a payment to the attackers in order to decrypt and recover their files. As of this time, the primary means of infection appears to be phishing emails containing malicious attachments.

Description

CryptoLocker appears to have been spreading through fake emails designed to mimic the look of legitimate businesses and through phony FedEx and UPS tracking notices.  In addition, there have been reports that some victims saw the malware appear following after a previous infection from one of several botnets frequently leveraged in the cyber-criminal underground.

Impact

The malware has the ability to find and encrypt files located within shared network drives, USB drives, external hard drives, network file shares and even some cloud storage drives.  If one computer on a network becomes infected, mapped network drives could also become infected. CryptoLocker then connects to the attackers’ command and control (C2) server to deposit the asymmetric private encryption key out of the victim’s reach.

Victim files are encrypted using asymmetric encryption. Asymmetric encryption uses two different keys for encrypting and decrypting messages. Asymmetric encryption is a more secure form of encryption as only one party is aware of the private key, while both sides know the public key.

While victims are told they have three days to pay the attacker through a third-party payment method (MoneyPak, Bitcoin), some victims have claimed online that they paid the attackers and did not receive the promised decryption key.  US-CERT and DHS encourage users and administrators experiencing a ransomware infection NOT to respond to extortion attempts by attempting payment and instead to report the incident to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Solution

Prevention

US-CERT recommends users and administrators take the following preventative measures to protect their computer networks from a CryptoLocker infection:

  • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages or submit any information to webpages in links
  • Use caution when opening email attachments. Refer to the Security Tip Using Caution with Email Attachmentsfor more information on safely handling email attachments
  • Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software
  • Perform regular backups of all systems to limit the impact of data and/or system loss
  • Apply changes to your Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems and Firewalls to detect any known malicious activity
  • Secure open-share drives by only allowing connections from authorized users
  • Keep your operating system and software up-to-date with the latest patches
  • Refer to the Recognizing and Avoiding Email Scams (pdf) document for more information on avoiding email scams
  • Refer to the Security Tip Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information on social engineering attacks

Mitigation

US-CERT suggests the following possible mitigation steps that users and administrators can implement, if you believe your computer has been infected with CryptoLocker malware:

  • Immediately disconnect the infected system from the wireless or wired network. This may prevent the malware from further encrypting any more files on the network
  • Users who are infected should change all passwords AFTER removing the malware from their system
  • Users who are infected with the malware should consult with a reputable security expert to assist in removing the malware, or users can retrieve encrypted files by the following methods:
    • Restore from backup,
    • Restore from a shadow copy or
    • Perform a system restore.

References

Revision History

The Need for Redundant Services & Equipment

by Scott Sinclair

In the Business Continuity world, the word redundant means “superfluity” or something that is “extra” or “non-essential” but is put in place in order to preserve the status quo in the event of an outage. Redundancy puts alternate resources into place that are called into service when needed. For example, at home, families may have a backup generator. The generator is “redundant” in that it is not necessary, until power is lost.

Perhaps the most common example of redundancy in business is data back-up. Most businesses regularly do (or should!) back-up their data, but the back-up is only needed if their data is lost.

The cornerstone of business continuity is building redundancies into a plan that makes sense for the organization if it loses one or more critical functions. Organizations choose their redundancies based upon the needs of the business and the technologies that are most critical to their day-to-day operations.

When developing a business continuity strategy, it is vitally important to conduct an honest SWOT analysis. Do not let budget constraints steer you away from the development of an honest, effective plan. If budget is an obstacle, implement your plan over time, but don’t take shortcuts. And as always, consult a trusted advisor to guide you through the process. belt and suspenders

Data Backups and the Holes in your Socks

Data back up and disaster recovery are both complicated and crucial. It is all about planning, attention to detail and faultless execution.

By way of a parable:

Imagine that you are all dressed up for a special occasion. You know that appearance is important. You try everything in your power to look your best. Except, the socks you are wearing have huge holes in them. Now imagine that you are going to a place that requires you to take off your shoes (e.g. a Japanese restaurant, a house of worship or your mother in law’s living room). Not good, right?

In our reality:

In data backup and disaster recovery, this scenario is more the norm than the exception. We relegate back up to a secondary IT role, performed as a task by a junior staff member, on generally older technology platforms. Everything that everyone can see and use, desktops and applications, is snazzy. It is only when a disaster strikes- power failure, database corruption, virus- that the lack of attention to detail is brought to the forefront- for everyone to see.

There are two types of metrics that need to be determined first. What is the recovery point objective (RPO) and what is the recovery time objective (RTO)? The RPO tells you how much data you need to back up and from what point. The RTO tells you how long of a lag you can tolerate in having that data unavailable.

Thankfully, there are a number of technologies that are available to optimize both.

DISK: YOUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE

Disk to Disk to Tape (D2D2T) strategies have gained popularity in recent years due to the great disparity between the devices being backed up (disks), the network carrying the backup, and the devices receiving the backup (tape).

D2D2T strategies solve this problem by placing a high-speed buffer between the fragmented, disk-based file systems and databases being backed up and the hungry tape drive. This buffer is a disk-based storage system designed to receive slow backups and supply them very quickly to a high-speed tape drive.

DEDUPE: THE DISK ENABLER

Typical backups create duplicate data in two ways: repeated full backups and repeated incrementals of the same file when it changes multiple times. A deduplication system identifies both situations and eliminates redundant files, reducing the amount of disk necessary to store your backups.

BACKING UP AS YOU GO

CDP (continuous data protection) is another increasingly popular disk-based backup technology. Think of it as replication with an undo button.

Every time a block of data changes on the system being backed up, it is transferred to the CDP system. However, unlike replication, CDP stores changes in a log, so you can undo those changes at a very granular level. In fact, you can recover the system to literally any point in time at which data was stored within the CDP system.

One of the biggest challenges of managing a backup infrastructure is that no one wants the job. In large companies, the backup admin position is an ever-revolving door staffed time and time again with junior people. In smaller companies, backing up the infrastructure is a peripheral duty that is often ignored. The result is the same in both cases: bad backups.

Cloud backup services take advantage of many of the technologies mentioned here, but allow customers to use the service without having to manage the process or invest in the equipment required to optimize the back up. Instead, customers simply install a piece of software on the systems being backed up, and the cloud backup service does the rest. But as with any backup system, make sure you have a way to verify that backups are working the way they’re supposed to.

By selecting the right cloud back up provider, using the right network bandwidth and the correct recovery time and recovery point objectives, the whole problem is reduced to one of intent. You have to recognize the importance of back up, you have to determine the objectives and test the model. For more information, call us at 847 329 8600 or check out our You Tube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/PrimeTelecomInc/videos).

10 Steps to Recovery from a Disaster: “Hark I hear the cannons roar!”

My father once told me a story about an out of work actor. He got a one line role in a Broadway performance. He had to say “Hark, I hear the cannons roar”. He dutifully practiced his lines every day for hours until the scheduled performance. Finally, at the opening night, it’s time for him to go on stage and recite his line. He practices it once more. He goes on stage and hears a loud boom. Instead of saying his line, he says, “What the hell was that!”. Recovery from a disaster can be like that if you are not prepared. Here are some steps to mitigate the “What the hell was that” factor when disaster strikes.

• Take a quick inventory of all your IT related business processes.

This includes everything from financial applications, logistical functions, email, outward facing functions and more. Remember the regulatory /compliance environment you are in (HIPAA, PCI or Sarbanes)

• Rank them for recovery priority.

Think about which applications are necessary for your company to generate revenue or are critical to business continuity?

What data can’t your customers do without? What’s critical to running your internal accounting and finances? And what is required for compliance? Now, create a list in in descending order to establish your DR recovery sequence. This is the dress rehearsal for your performance. It makes the “what the hell was that” factor diminish significantly.

• Establish a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) for each function.

Ask yourself, “How fast do I need to recover this application?” Email and transaction based applications that people inside and outside the company depend on at all times will probably be near the top of this list, whereas applications that are less frequently accessed, such as a human resources applications, may be low on the list because they’re ancillary to your immediate business continuity requirements. Be realistic in your estimate of the recovery time objective.

• Establish a Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

How much data can you afford to lose for business process? How important is the data that you could lose? Applications related directly to business continuity, where data changes significantly every day, will top this list. Back office processes may be lower on the list. Is it a day’s worth of data? Is it an hour’s worth of data?

· Create a “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” plan. Define where you want to keep your DR data and systems.

If you are located in an area that could be hit is regional weather events like hurricanes, floods, or wild fires, then select a secondary location outside of your region that you can fail over to when disaster strike at your primary location. Your choice could include cloud-based recovery.

• Determine which of your RTOs and RPOs can be supported by your existing backup and recovery scheme.

This will allow you to figure out pretty quickly which of your processes are going to “fall through the cracks.” Certain applications, like very heavily used SQL or Exchange applications may need to be backed up even more frequently, and if your current backup scheme can’t support anything more frequent than once daily backup, you may wish to consider investing in a newer, more aggressive disaster recovery solution.

• Consider your DR options.

If your current system is not up for the job, select a Disaster recovery solution that best meets the business and recovery objectives you have developed in the previous steps of this plan (see below in the next section for more information). Once it’s installed and in production, make sure your staff is trained how to use it.

• Assign responsibilities so everyone knows what to do when a disaster strikes.

Assign everybody involved in the DR plan a specific task. Don’t expect the relevant personnel to always be at the disaster site or to be in control immediately. Implement necessary duplication and redundancy for people, just like you would do with computers.

• Test, test, test!

One of the worst feelings an IT administrator can have is discovering a backup is corrupted in a disaster recovery scenario. Why wait to find out when it’s too late to do anything about it? Test your backup data for corruption when you back it up. Newly developed software allows you to test for recoverability automatically. Use these available tools.

• Practice, practice, practice!

The more experience your team has successfully carrying out a simulated disaster recovery, the more comfortable and quick they will be to succeed when the real thing happens.
Your business is dependent on technology. Even the smallest disruption to your systems can impact operations. A backup and recovery strategy is essential, yet most companies lack the expertise or resources to implement one. With Prime’s unmetered managed backup and recovery service, our certified engineers manage the process for you. Visit us at http://www.primetelecommunications.com/backup-disaster-recovery/ to learn more.

Why Some Companies Succeed in their Cloud Migration and Why

I was at a conference last week and got to talking with my friend Michael Keefe, who is the National Director for Latisys. I have known Mike for about a dozen years and he has been a reliable source of information for me as technology changes. I asked Mike a very straight forward question. Why do some companies succeed in their migration to the cloud- and what makes a successful business case?

Mike provided me with some answers- and he continues to be a great resource.

Here are the basics:

How: Identify Strategic Goals- which is another way of saying, plan, assess and provide a realistic workload.

Why: Improve Business Functions- cost control, speed and agility, and elasticity.

Identifying Strategic Goals

Smart companies use the cloud as part of an IT strategy. Although the phrase “IT strategy” can have many different meanings, in this context we’re referring to the high-level plan to meet increasing demand for IT resources. Most companies must provide users with complex systems that achieve high performance in secure and scalable environments. These companies must manage mission-critical applications and increasing workloads across multiple platforms while transforming legacy applications and processes. They must accommodate ever-increasing storage and network capacity—and do it all at a reasonable cost. The particulars of these decisions vary by company, but for each of them, the long-term vision of how to meet these challenges comprises the IT strategy.

As functions such as e-mail become increasingly mission-critical, and as users gravitate toward rich media, most such strategies require new resources. So where to get them? Few CEOs are willing to increase the percentage of budget allotted to IT. They’re wary of capital-intensive development efforts, mindful of a legacy of misspent investments in IT. Meanwhile, reducing other existing IT expenses through virtualization has been a surprisingly productive approach for the past few years—but most companies have already gone as far as they can with such efforts.

Some users—and executives—push for the cloud. Yet many IT leaders resist, citing concerns with security, vendor lock-in, performance, availability, and integration. And although these concerns are legitimate, users rarely find them persuasive. This is why successful companies have an IT strategy. To be effective, to deliver ongoing value to the company, IT must be more than merely a provider of services. It must have a strategy to understand how external forces will continue to transform the business, and seek opportunities to move in the right direction. The value of IT comes in knowing which of the users’ problems are best served by the cloud, and making the appropriately strategic deployments. It comes in judging those problems, and other opportunities, in the context of the business’ overall goals. It also comes in knowing how to avoid threats.

Successful companies negotiate these opportunities and threats by having not just any strategy, but a good one. “Let’s move to the cloud” is a poor strategy—and so is “We can’t put anything in the cloud.” The savviest companies have strategies that find unique, upto-date, company-specific answers to the classic challenge of seeking to provide business users with the services they need while optimizing budgets. The cloud is merely one of many vehicles that these companies use to accomplish that strategy.

Improving Business Functions

For most companies, the IT strategy identifies one or more business challenges that will define the coming years. Three potential examples are:

1. Cost Control: As compute and storage requirements explode, how can companies avoid huge future capital outlays to purchase new processors or storage devices?

The operational advantage of the cloud is that it pools utilization across companies, so that one company can take advantage of another’s under-utilization. The financial advantage is that the cloud simultaneously shifts capital expenses (CapEx) to operating expenses (OpEx), which frequently results in better profits.

Thus, smart companies that have an IT strategy focused on cost control use the cloud to improve hardware utilization and finances. Some even use it to improve the utilization of their most important resources—their people. For example, many companies that run their email systems on Microsoft Exchange know that Exchange administrators are hard to find. Likewise, they may have legacy applications that require maintenance from senior IT staffers. By outsourcing such functions, they reduce headaches and improve employee morale. In the case of Exchange, their IT strategy likely debated the appropriateness of outsourcing an application as critical as email—and concluded that email may be critical to the business but is not one of its core competencies.

Successful companies thus gain significant savings from using the cloud to support their IT strategy with regards to scale, utilization, and CapEx-to-OpEx. They also manage expectations, realizing that the biggest effects are often not in reducing this year’s budget but in containing potential future cost increases.

2. Speed and agility: The pace of business today is faster than ever, and some businesses are held back by long, bureaucratic processes associated with IT resources. One such process is the provisioning of software tools to information workers. Many cloud serviceproviders are now offering software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications to perform functions such as customer relationship management (CRM). Although these applications have many drawbacks, including limitations in security and flexibility, a huge advantage is that where internal software development efforts can take years, these applications can be available in hours. Successful companies thus evaluate how the benefits and drawbacks of such applications fit into the priorities set by their overall IT strategy.

Less hyped, less transformative, but often boasting a bigger cost/benefit ratio is reforming the process of provisioning hardware. Provisioning in the cloud can reduce the time and costs associated with software development testing or other such temporary demands. The old approach often required several days to get a server up and running and loaded with the appropriate data.

Provisioning infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) in the cloud, a new server can be ready in hours. (See Figure 1.) Then, when the temporary demand is complete, de-provisioning the test environment ends its cost drain. Many successful companies also use the cloud to instantaneously provision CapEx-free resources for permanent demands, rather than purchase new hardware.

Using the cloud to speed up the business provisioning process

They can thus improve time-to-revenue and agility in expanding into new customer segments, quickly taking advantage of multiple site deployment, or experimenting with expansions of latency-sensitive applications.

3. Elasticity: Successful companies use their IT strategy to understand their workloads. They realize that they have three choices in addressing bursting demand in those workloads:

a) suffer from underutilization,

b) crash regularly during spikes, or

c) take advantage of cloud resources that can expand and contract with their needs. Examples of bursting demand include: when monthly financial reports are due, after a product is featured on TV, when an oil well is “hot” and needs to transmit massive amounts of seismic data, or when daily web traffic peaks.

Such scaling to react to customer needs is generally of huge benefit to a company’s business users. They can plan more confidently without capacity restraints. They can easily expand to new geographies or markets, execute promotional blitzes, or otherwise quickly respond to market changes.

In our experience, one of the biggest differentiators between companies that succeed or fail in the cloud is how well they understand their workloads. When they know if and how their demand bursts, they use cloud resources to manage it. When they don’t understand their workloads, they end up making poor cloud purchasing decisions.

I was really intrigued by Mike’s answer. I have more case studies and whitepapers to share with you. I will  continue to share via the PrimeTelecomBlog –or contact me and I can send them out to you with Mike’s compliments.