What Happened with the Internet Yesterday? What is Your Disaster Plan?

     

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world's largest provider of internet-based computing services - almost 150,000 companys use AWS.  Companies such as Netflix, Spotify, Pinterest, Buzzfeed, and Amazon (go figure), use this service.  When AWS had an outage yesterday, it affected hundreds of thousands of businesses!  Dave Bartoletti, a cloud analyst with Forrester, told USA Today: “This is a pretty big outage.  “It’s got north of 3 to 4 trillion pieces of data stored in it.” That's a lot of data!

 Fortunately, for our customers that have products utilizing AWS, they are on a system that offers an offline solution or a solution that still runs even if internet is down.  

emergency life saver.jpgHowever, this is a great reminder that it is time to review the disaster plan for your business.  You have one, right?

Many disasters can befall a small business (power outages, earthquakes, internet outages, fires, security breaches, etc.), but few are worse than losing vital business information. Imagine losing your entire customer list, your accounts receivable data, your sales or payroll data, your menu setup, or your inventory records. You could spend weeks –even months - reconstructing this data. In a worst-case scenario, you might not be able to reconstruct it at all.   If you are on one of our hosted solutions, many of these worries go away.

In today’s highly-computerized business world, many firms are exposed to the sudden loss of information. Natural disasters, computer viruses, mechanical failures and electronic crime can all result in catastrophic data loss. No matter how hard you try, you can’t prevent disasters from occurring. But you can take forceful steps to safeguard your data, and ensure that you can retrieve and restore your computer records should you suffer a loss.  

 Suggestions for Building your Disaster Plan 

Watch Your Power

  • Develop an alternate power supply. Backup generation, which can keep your computer running for a short time period during a power outage, can help prevent data loss. If the cost of data reentry is high, backup power might be a cost-effective alternative.
  • Protect against power surges. Many scenarios can cause sudden power surges and spikes, or they can even occur randomly. The result? Lost data and, occasionally, damaged equipment. Good line conditioners always make a wise investment.

Be sure you’re insured - Your insurance policies should cover your hardware and software. Check with your agent. Data and records, however, are another matter. Just the same, ask about the availability and cost of critical records coverage.

Guard Yourself

  • The use of passwords is a must. Passwords help prevent unauthorized use of your system and are an absolute must in today’s business environment. Passwords should never be handed out or shared. Changing Windows passwords should be scheduled with Skurla’s POS Solutions as it can affect how your backup runs.
  • Protect your files. Most sophisticated software allows you to grant system access on a selective basis. You could grant one employee, for instance, access to your accounts payable data only, while limiting another to access of your electronic checking account records.
  • Segregate responsibilities. Computer crime is rising. One of the best preventive steps is to segregate manual and computer responsibilities, preventing any one employee from obtaining the tools necessary to manipulate the system or cover up theft.

Back it up - This is the most important security rule of all. Back up your drive with all of your data, weekly or daily (or even more frequently), depending on the volume of transactions. A rule of thumb: You should never be in a position where reentry of data requires more than a day’s work.  

  • Keep your backup disks or tape in a safe place, preferably miles away from your business. Some possibilities include putting data in a fireproof office safe or at an office across town, at your home or at a commercial data center (an increasingly popular resource today). If you back up extensive data, consider a “round robin” arrangement, where you always have two to four backups circulating. Whenever you send a fresh backup to location No. 1, move its backup to location No. 2, and so on.
  • Keep a paper trail. Since you may need to reenter data at some point, keep your paper audit trail strong and clear.
  • Develop emergency operating procedures. Prepare yourself for a natural disaster or sudden data loss. Even if you’ve adequately backed up data, how will you restore it and get your system running again? If you have to run without computers, do you have adequate paper-based systems in place? Emergency procedures help answer these questions.
  • Limit physical access. Who should have access to computer systems containing sensitive data? Only employees who need access. Servers and networking equipment should located in a secure area.
  • Allow business use only. Computer viruses can spread from thumb drive to hard drive. Under no circumstances, allow employees or colleagues to load personal software into your business computer. For that matter, don’t load any software into your system that doesn’t come from a reputable supplier.
  • Be careful downloading. Many computer viruses enter a system when files are downloaded from electronic bulletin boards or software exchanges.
  • Give your computer periodic checkups. Increasingly, computer users run anti-viral software daily. While no software can provide absolute protection against viruses, anti-viral packages greatly diminish the probability that a virus will strike your system.
  • Ask for help. If you don’t know the data security risks you face, ask for help from a consultant who can assess the greatest information-related threats to your business and minimize your risks.

 Care for Your System

  • Keep food and beverages away from your computer equipment. That means no sipping coffee while working at the keyboard.
  • Maintain the right temperature. While a dry, cool environment is best, most computer equipment can tolerate a wide range of temperature and humidity variations. But watch for excessively warm or damp rooms; they invariably spell trouble.
  • Clean your computer. A large proportion of system crashes occur because of dust and dirt. Have your CPU, keyboard and printer professionally cleaned on a regular basis.
  •  Keep all magnets away from all computer equipment. A magnet can erase a hard drive by just getting near it.

Write down a plan -  This can't be emphasized enough!

  • Your computer protection and security program should be just that––a program. Once you’ve developed concrete procedures to safeguard your data, write them down and either take on the responsibility of administering them or assign the task to a trusted employee.
  • Don’t minimize the threat of a computer disaster by claiming “it can't happen to me.” It can and probably will. Computers are machines and, even in the absence of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, viruses and computer crime, machines can suddenly break down for inexplicable reasons.
  •  It’s comforting to know that, when you’re searching for the cause of a breakdown, your vital business information is safe. Knowing that you can get the system up and running again with minimum effort and expense is equally reassuring.
  •  Remember that disaster planning also includes running trial disasters to test the plan. If you do not practice on a regular basis, then do not expect to be able to recover in the event of a real emergency.
  • A good disaster recovery plan should be written just like your business plan. It need not be as involved as your business plan.  A simple outline with contact names and telephone numbers, account numbers, a list of tasks, and an order of events can be of great assistance when confronted suddenly with the loss of your computer and/or access to it.

 Other Action Items - 

  • Keep a printed price book of all of your prices. Keep your menus up to date and accurate.
  • Restaurants – have copies of menus and other price lists available for cashiers and servers
  • Have a key to your cash register drawer available.
  • Have manual credit card machines and credit card slips available for all registers. Also have handy the phone numbers to call for manual authorizations. Talk to your processor about how to develop a plan for manual authorizations and how go get your credit cards settled and to the bank.
  • For retail stores have 2 or 3 part receipt books so that you can manually record sales.
  • Restaurants – have two part guest check books available for all your servers
  • Make sure that you have a cell phone in your store.
  • Identify an alternate source for your Internet provider
  • Keep good, safe back-ups to your data.
  • And while this is not a disaster per se, if you run out of receipt paper- that can become a disaster! So keep an Emergency Point of Sale Supply Kit of all critical supplies.  Read here for more information on items to stock.

The following is a list of the most common strategies for data protection - 

  • Backups made to removable media and sent off-site at regular intervals (preferably daily)
  • Backups made to disk on-site and automatically copied to off-site disk, or made directly to off-site disk - recommended over removable media.
  • Replication of data to an off-site location, which overcomes the need to restore the data (only the systems then need to be restored or synced
  • Use utilities to make full images of your system. Full system backup (disk image) - To Back up everything on a hard drive or partition.
  • In addition to preparing for the need to recover systems, organizations must also implement precautionary measures with an objective of preventing a disaster situation in the first place. These may include some of the following:
  • Local mirrors of systems and/or data and use of disk protection technology such as RAID
  • Line Conditioners — to minimize the effect of power surges on delicate electronic equipment
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and/or Backup Generator to keep systems going in the event of a power failure
  • Fire Prevention — more alarms, accessible fire extinguishers intended for use on electrical fire
  • Anti-virus software and other security measures

Remember:  Write out your plan.

Test your plan thoroughly. Set aside training time and practice your plan.

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If you need help in developing a plan for you business, give us a call at 907-243-2683 or fill out the form below:

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About The Author

Lynn literally grew up in the point of sale and cash register industry – and is now at the helm of the family business. She enjoys working with local Alaskan businesses, especially restaurants, grocery stores, and retail operations - helping them control costs and increase revenues through well managed point of sale solutions. Besides running the company, Lynn has also served on the Board of Directors, and as Chairman of the Board, for the Retail Solutions Provider Association.