21 Ways to Bullet Proof your IT infrastructure

January 23, 2008

bullet proof

If backups is about making sure your company data is safe, then building IT redundancy is making sure you have the infrastructure to read that information back. So how can you increase the resilience of your business infrastructure?

Increasing sales, number of clients and profit margins are top priorities for businesses. Building redundancy and fall over systems for the business are probably bottom of the pile. Why, simple because investing in such backup systems doesn’t increase sales, clients or profits. But, if your business does suffer a major disaster, then these redundancy systems have everything to do with profit margins.

image 1. Network and Desktop Protection – I think most people realise they need an anti-virus solution to guard against viruses, a firewall to protect their business network from the outside world. However, without sounding like an insurance sales man, sometimes this is not enough protection. On the desktop front, you need to consider malware, root kits, Trojans along with viruses. Many of the latest anti-viruses solutions guard against all these things. Depending on the size of your company, you might also consider additional protection for your network. This could include dedicated firewalls, internal firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Spam, Malware and virus filters etc.

2. External Backup Email Address – Make sure you have a backup email address that can be used, should your primary address not be available. I would suggest a free email account from someone like Google or Yahoo. Make sure you check the account every so often, else it could be deactivated if it lies dormant for too long. Google Gmail can easily integrate into existing email clients such as Thunderbird or Outlook. You can also download the desktop notification program.

image 3. Online Backup Solution – Backup solutions can be a real pain in the backside. If you have tape solution, you probably need to change the tape on a daily basis and store the tapes in a different location for protection against fire. An online backup solution means your business data is stored offsite in a secure environment. Changes in your business data are automatically encrypted and transferred over the internet to secure location. I would recommend that businesses should have a local backup solution for full quick system recovery and an online backup to protect against complete loss of business premises.

4. Temporary Premises – What would you do tomorrow if you lost your office or factory space? This could be due to fire, flood, maintenance or temporary access to the internet. It maybe worth looking at what office space is available to rent at a moments notice in your area. You could consider a two way agreement with a neighbouring business for office space, or maybe just you’re local Starbucks for internet access!

5. Physical Security – One factor that is often over looked when it comes to protecting your IT infrastructure is physical security. Gaining access to your network, servers and backup tapes is often easily achieved by physically walking into a business premises. Think about quality locks, keypads, swipe cards, visitor badges, safes etc can restrict access to sensitive areas of your business.

I once did a weeks professional training course on hacking (very interesting) by ex-MoD expert, the last day he show us how easy it was to pick and spring padlocks, so make sure you buy quality locks that require the key to engage the lock.

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6. User Logon Profiles – Once your staffing levels reach around seven or more, your business could benefit from having a client-server environment. Typically, this will involve a server which authenticates user login details, desktop settings, user files and application settings. This means a user will be able to log in to any computer within the business and have access to their desktop. So next time a computer breaks down you can simply login to a spare machine.

7. File Synchronisation – If you run a business with a server that hosts your company files and documents, you should consider enabling offline file synchronisation. This means if your server or network is unavailable you can continue accessing your personal documents. Once the issue has been fixed, changes to your documents are synchronised back to the server. This is also handy for laptop users who are out and about on the road.

8. Make use of Redundant Hardware – Instead of throwing out that old machine why not install Linux operating system which requires a lot less memory, disk space and processing power compared to a Windows system. What’s more, Linux is free and has a wide range of freely available software you can use. For example your machine could run an as:-

– Intranet or CRM server
– Email Server
– Backup storage
– Network Monitoring System
– Snort (IDS)
– Additional Spam protection
– Firewall (SmoothFirewall)
– Internet access for the staff canteen or warehouse
– Public information point, coupled with a trendy flat screen!
– DNS, Proxy or DHCP server

9. Refreshing Hardware and Software – As the business grows, you should set aside money to replace existing hardware and software. You don’t want to upset the apple cart, but at the same time you don’t want the company to stay stuck in the dark ages. Refreshing parts of your IT infrastructure from time to time will not only give your workforce the best tools, but often additional redundancy features. As mentioned in tip 8, make use of redundant hardware and software as fall over systems to your new equipment.

image 10. Backup Internet Connection – This suggestion all depends on how much your business is dependent on internet access. Consider how much it costs your business per hour without an internet connection. If you are talking in the hundreds then it might be worth considering a backup internet connection. If possible choose an ISP that uses a different technology other than your primary supplier. For example, ADSL internet that uses a standard phone line and a backup connection that uses a cable modem from a cable provider. If you purchase the correct network equipment, you could utilise both connections for increase speed and bandwidth. You could also consider a two-way agreement with a neighbouring business to use their internet connection should yours be unavailable.

11. Knowledge Base System – There are many ways that your business can introduce systems to harvest the knowledge of your staff. This might be a company Wiki, Social Bookmarking, helpdesk or Customer Relationship Manager. Implementing such systems will not only have a positive affect, but also protect against loss of information when staff move on.

12. Software Drivers, Applications, Network Settings and Serial Keys – It is easy to think that once the business data is safely backed up, that the company is protected. However, if the business can’t rebuild the business platform (IT infrastructure) quickly, the company data starts to lose its value. Make sure you have access to driver disks (CDs), application software, router settings, application serial keys etc

13. Software Updates – Make sure you software is kept up-to-date with the latest security patches. This can include applications, operating systems, network devices and servers. A word of warning, sometimes updates can cause a few problems. So be careful when it comes to updating critical systems such as servers and network devices. Its why you need tip number 14!

image 14. IT Support Company – You might be or have a computer guru within your business and have no need for a day-to-day support from an IT company. Although what happens when the computer guru is off or leaves? You never know when disaster strikes and you end up over your head with IT problems. You panic and ringing the first IT support company you come across. Instead, shop around, talk about your current IT setup. Ask if they would be available to help should you land in hot water.

15. IT policy – Make sure your staff are aware and understand how they should use the IT infrastructure correctly. Although you might think it does not need spelling out. Having a company IT policy written down on paper and signed by staff will not only act as a preventative measure, but also keep you protected should you need to let a member of staff go.

16. Fire proof safe – We briefly mentioned this one before, but its worth considering a fireproof safe to secure backup’s, software and serial keys etc. Even if you can’t afford a fireproof safe, regular safe is better than nothing.

image 17. UPS and Surge Protection – Uninterrupted power supply (UPS) allows you protect your computer systems from power cuts. This is a absolute must for any servers in your business. Even if the power cut lasts longer that 20 minutes, the UPS will gracefully shutdown the computer.

18. Hardware Supplier – Another reason to have a relationship with a local computer support company. Typically, they can arrange the correct equipment to be ordered cheaper and quicker that businesses that don’t purchase hardware on a regular basis. More than likely, they will have spare equipment they can lend you.

19. Backup Backup Backup and Test – You can make sure all your bases are covered, but if you don’t have access to your company data, it can all be a complete waste of time. So make sure you have a backup solution or two! Also, unless you test your backup solutions, you can’t say with a 100% certainly that you’re covered.

20. Disaster Recovery Document – Have your IT support company produce a comprehensive imageand professional Disaster Recovery Document. Generally, the report should cover things like IT settings, a recovery plan and suggestions to increase protection. Make sure you have copy available outside the office, which is held securely, remember this is the keys to your business!

21. Come back stronger – If disaster does strike, before you start the recovery process it might be worth taking a step back and thinking how you would do things differently.

What measures do you take to protect your IT infrastructure?

I’m expecting 5 or more from our good friend, Jason!





Getting Started with Open Source Software

December 12, 2007

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Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking to a number of business owners about IT services. One of our principles is to use open source software whenever possible to help lower development and licensing costs. Although, I still find that many businesses are simply not aware of the free software.

As with anything, the best way to learn about something, is by example. So here are several good examples of Open Source Software that you can use within your business. But before we get started here is a quick explanation…

What is it Open Source Software?

In basic terms its free software that can be used in businesses and at home. Although unlike Freeware which is just free software, open source software doesn’t belong to anyone, which means you can have access to the inner works of the software, called the source code. So if your company doesn’t like how the software works, they can have it changed.

Creating PDF Documents

books

You don’t need to purchase expensive software to produce Portable Document Files or PDF’s. Instead download and install PDFCreator which creates a virtual PDF printer on your machine. Once installed, you can convert any file into a PDF documents simply by launching the relevant application and selecting the PDF printer when printing. PDFCreator will then ask you where you would like to save your newly created PDF.

Microsoft Office Alternative

office desk, computer coffee and mouse

Open Office is a full office suite which shares many of the features and styles found in Microsoft Office. What’s more, it can open and edit existing Microsoft Office documents. Open Office contains a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database and drawing applications. So, if you have computers without Office and can’t quite justify the expenditure, why not give Open Office a bash.

Mapping Ideas

mind maps

I think mind map software is a great product for all types of businesses. Although you can create hieratical charts within Microsoft office, they are often to formal for creating ideas. FreeMind is piece of software where you start with a centralised idea (hub or trunk) and branch out ideas and as you formulate your project, the map grows. The idea is not be accurate or too formal, just a quickly way to get your ideas recorded.

Plan your projects using Mind Mapping software

Photo and Graphical Editing

paint

Although Adobe Photoshop is an excellent piece of software, it comes with a heft price tag and is quite often over kill for most users needs. There are cheap alternatives, but if you still need something with advance features, then GIMP could be the ticket. Paint.Net is also worth considering as middle weight application and if you need a vector editing package, InkScape.

Compressing Files

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Back in the day when you wanted to compress a file or send a batch of files via email, you would use a program like WinZip. Since 2001 Windows has incorporated compression or file zipping as standard. Although you may still find the need for something more powerful that can split files, encrypt, password protect and open other compression formats such RAR files etc. Step in 7zip, which has all the features you will every need when it comes to compressing and un-compressing files.

Give me more

Want more?

Still not enough, check out Open Source Alternative.

What are your favourite open source products for the desktop?

Terinea Tags: open source software, , , ,

Author: Support @ 4:10 pm
Category: Open Source




What are blogs?

November 29, 2007

business week blogs and business

I guess the majority of people who read Terinea Weblog, already know what blogs are? Although, I realised the other day I’ve never actually explained in my own words what blogs are.

Blogs are not a new technology

I find most people struggle to understand the concept of blogging because they are looking for a piece of new technology to be involved. Usually when explaining something new in computing it will involve a new piece of hardware or software. Blogs on the other hand, are simply a collection of web pages which are commonly referred as blog posts. The new posts appear in date order with the latest post appearing at the top of the page. You can think of them as a online journal or web log, hence the name weblog which has been shortened to blog. Posts can contain anything from text, pictures, quoted text from other website’s, links to other blogs, music, charts, tables or embedded video.

image

The Community

So far you might be thinking so what, they sound like a regular website? Well blogs (good ones!) are all about the community of readers that read and leave comments. For example if you disagree or wish to add something to this particular post, you can simply scroll down the page and leave a comment. As one of the authors of the blog I should acknowledge your comment and maybe even update the post if the comment adds value.

image

Tell me when you update

Another big different with blogs over regular website’s is something called Really Simple Syndicate Feed or RSS Feed. You might of seen the RSS Feed logo on various web sites or within your web browser. Instead of visiting a blog to check for updates, a RSS Feed will inform you when the blog has been updated. In fact you don’t actually need to visit the blog at all, using something called a RSS Reader will pull new posts down for you.

Still confused? Watch this excellent video from Common Craft.

Business and Blogging

To find out why your business might want a blog, take a look at…

  • Blogs and Wikis: Growing influences and markets of the Internet
  • Benefits and Weakness for Business Blogs

Some external links

If you’re thinking about starting one for your business, check out our

Skip to the end

So in summary…

  • Blogs are a web Journal or Web log
  • Readers can subscribe to the blog using the RSS feed
  • Latest posts appear at the top
  • Old posts appear at the bottom
  • Posts can be sorted by categories and date
  • A two way medium
  • Readers can leave comments
  • Can be about anything from knitting to the stock exchange
  • Blogs should be fun and informal
  • Writing a blog is referred as blogging
  • Can be used for personal or business
  • Reading other blogs and leaving comments is as equally important to running a blog
  • Should be updated more regularly than a website
  • Use a desktop blog writer to make the whole process an easier one
Author: Support @ 8:40 am
Tags: ,




Top 10 Business Productivity Tips for 2007

November 12, 2007

image

Over the last two weeks I have been busy with day to day business and refreshing our marketing material (promotional leaflet, banner stand and Website). So continuing my philosophy of blogging offline. I decided that one of the banner stands should offer free advice which can act as a talking point to potential customers.

So here are Terinea’s Top 10 Business Productivity Tips aimed at business owners:-

1. Company Email Address – Your emails will look more professional if they incorporate your
company name. (Yes, we still come across many businesses that use Hotmail and yahoo)

2. Open Source Software – Quality software, that’s free to use within your business.

3. Online Backup – Automatically backup your data to a secure offsite location.

4. Company Blog – This is a cost effective marketing tool that is becoming as influential as
traditional media.

5. Secure Password Database Keep your passwords and settings in a secure encrypted database.

6. Disaster Recovery Plan – In the event of a disaster , you need a plan to get your business back up and running.

7. IT Support Relationship – Make sure you have a relationship with a local IT company that can advise you on the best IT solutions.

8. Do More With Your Mobile – If you’re out and about a lot, why not get your emails on your mobile, so you can react faster to your customers.

9. Online Applications – Calendars, Word Processors, Spreadsheets, Virtual Whiteboards – All running online and accessible from anywhere!

10. Shared Calendar & Contacts – A central location to share your contacts and calendar with your staff .

Extra – Social Networks* – Forget MySpace, Facebook has been the biggest thing this year and with Google to up the game with OpenSocial, you can bet social networks will become an important tool for businesses.

*For a number of reasons we didn’t put this tip on the banner, maybe next time when the sector has had a little time to mature.

Why didn’t you include..?

We chose items that are:-

  • Aimed at SME’s (Small to Medium Enterprises)
  • Measurable return on investment
  • Fairly simple to implement
  • Cheap
  • Quick and effective

What are your top tips?

I would love to hear what top tips you would offer to potential customers to demonstrate your knowledge? It doesn’t have to be IT related either!

Author: Support @ 12:20 pm
Category: Blogging,Business




Whisky company embracing social media

October 22, 2007

dug the sheep dig and pig nose dog

Dug the dog

Last Thursday I was invited along to a whisky tasting evening hosted by Spencefield Spirit and Mike of Digital Agency. Spencefield Spirit are a small company (Alex and Jane) that sell Sheep Dip and Pigs Nose whisky.

Without the deep pockets of larger competitors, Alex and Jane, along with some help from Digital Agency have been using digital and social media to expose their brands and create a customer experience. For example their whisky featured in the Burning Man festival, they blogged about it and uploaded the photo’s to flickr. Jane mentioned on the companies Facebook group, Sheep Dip Fold about her Christmas Cake recipe, after a number of requests Jane uploaded the recipe to the blog and along with photo’s on flickr.

Alex, Dug and Jane of spencerfield spirit

Alex, Dug and Jane

Before you ask, here are the reasons for the names of their whiskies:-

Sheep Dip

The name came about because British farmers have long referred to whisky as Sheep Dip. There was a time when farmers distilled their own “home-made” whisky and in order to avoid paying taxes to the revenue man hid the whisky in barrels marked “Sheep Dip”. Farmers’ merchants continued this tradition by entering cases of whisky as “Sheep dip” on farmers’ bills and so “pulling the wool” over the farmers wives eyes.

Pigs Nose

The blend contains a high percentage (40%) of malt whiskies, principally from Speyside imbuing the product with their characteristic softness; the name comes from the farming expression “soft as a pig’s nose”

Whisky and Passion

Okay Spencerfield are not going to take on the big boy’s over night, but its important to show the company (Alex and Jane) have a real passion for their brands, that can’t be manufactured or purchased off the shelf (I’ll have 10 blog posts about my business please!). Its probably more important for niche brands such as theirs to show this passion.

So if your a whisky fan, keep an eye out for Sheep Dip or Pig Nose in your local or alternatively purchase some online.

Author: Support @ 6:00 pm
Category: Blogging,Events