Unlimited internet is cheap; let’s talk about disaster recovery

These days almost all businesses can get a cheap fast, or ultra-fast, internet connection with unlimited usage. One way to use this endless data is to have an effective disaster recovery strategy.  You see, having a backup is only helpful if it can be recovered quickly and reliably.

I’ve talked to so many professionals who have missed opportunities to make sure their businesses survive a disaster. That’s why I tell them they simply need to leverage their existing internet connections.

A robust offsite recovery strategy used to be a luxury only big businesses could afford, due to the costs of dedicated data circuits and standby systems. Well, not anymore!

I hear you say: “I already backup to the Cloud.” That’s great, but I want to take your thinking beyond the likes of Dropbox and OneDrive because they are not focused on disaster recovery. I’m that IT professional you come to when all is lost except for a login to one of those services, and you ask me to save you from the brink of disaster.

Recovery can take longer than you think and sometimes it requires you to purchase new copies of your software because you can’t find the installation media or license keys. Together we can avoid this heartache in the first place because there are now some extremely good products available.

Two which come to mind are Veeam Backup and Replication and StorageCraft ShadowProject. These products backup the entire system, making it easily recoverable and copied offsite quickly and securely. I won’t go into the comparative features of these two, because we don’t have the time between now and when you fall asleep reading this…

So do yourself a favour and think about how long your business could function without your ICT systems. And then get in touch with us, XSYS IT. Together we can make a disaster recovery plan which utilises that awesome unlimited internet connection!

I have some good news and some bad news.

First, the good news, Chorus has opened the UFB fibre to allow for 1Gb internet (1000Mb) fibre internet , they announced this in October, click here for the press release.

Now for the bad news, (well good (ish) for you ) a number of smaller ISP’s have already increased the 200Mb connections to 1Gb connections for next to no increase in cost. What that means for you, is, during the next year, you might be offered a connection from your provider that is FIVE times the speed of your brand new connection, for not much more money. Would you take them up on the offer, (would you like the ability to take them up on their offer)?

 

The answer to that question is the answer to what firewall do you want.

 

Now for the technical part, (sorry, will try to keep the technobabble out of this as best I can, but there is no escaping it).

Throughput is the amount of data that a firewall can process, before it stops. Cheaper firewall appliances have a lower throughput, what is the point of having a firewall that can only do 400mb or 600mb throughput if you have a 1000mb connection

 

Firewall's are a moving target, hackers are always trying to circumvent firewalls, one of the many ways to mitigate this is to keep the firewall's operating system up to date. Similarly, like your computer, updates come regularly and need to be applied, as they are not automatic. Good firewalls have the ability to be updated for many years, but to be allowed access to these updates, you need to pay an annual subscription fee.

 

Subscription status.

We recommend WatchGuard firewalls, they have different levels of functionality, depending on what you want to pay for, there is Live security, which has the bare minimum of what is needed. As long as you have this subscription active and up to date, these firewalls have a forward replacement warranty, and access to the latest operating systems. Basic security suite has Standard Support (24x7), Application Control, WebBlocker, spamBlocker, Gateway Antivirus, Intrusion Prevention Service, Reputation Enabled Defence, and Network Discovery.  Here is an explanation of the features that are included in Basic security.

 

Each firewall comes with either a 1 or 3 year warranty and each of them have the ability to extend the warranty, by purchasing an active live or basic security suite.

 

Having a 7 year old firewall that has never been updated since the day it was plugged in still in your network is like having 13 year old running security on the door of a pub, sure, they know the basics of what should be done, but if someone wants in, they're in.

 

Contact us on 0800727545 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get answers to question you did not even think of.

 

 

15 years later what has changed?

When the servers third hard drive failed one lovely Thursday morning, we could no longer work. 30 people doing not very much, waiting for the engineer to come. This was 2001, before remote access was available for everyone. Monitoring a server was something you did watching the tennis. Wow 120kph, that was a fast serve.

No one knew that two other hard drives had failed beforehand, this was a catastrophic event, when the engineer turned up, saw the problem, and almost quit on the spot. He did not want to deal with the problem that has he was faced with. IT WAS THAT BAD! Once he settled down (I think that he a couple of nerve calmers down at the local pub), he ordered the replacement hard drives, and a couple of days later they arrived. (DAYS!) The hard drives were restored to a functioning array (that took almost a day), then he could restore the data from tape, that was more than a week old, and it took two days to complete the restore. If you have been counting, that was 2 days’ down for hardware, 1 day rebuild, 2 days to restore the data, the middle of the following week.

Then we had to manually input everything that had been done since the weekend backup almost 2 weeks prior, I had to recreate all my drawings, and then once finished data entry into our line of business application, and catch up and continue with all the new work that had come in while we were down.

30 people for a week, cleaning the offices, enjoying long lunchbreaks in the sun, being paid to wait, some took a few days off, but not everyone.

What did we learn from this? The accounts person was away, and no one had changed the tapes, the server was out of warranty, and parts were hard to come by, no one was periodically checking the server, no one had tested the backups, so we did not know just how long the other disks had not been working for. Back then salaries were $30-50,000 picking $40,000 that’s $770 per week x 30 people, that is a little over $23,000 for ONE WEEK, plus all the lost productivity having to redo what was lost, as I was just a worker bee back then I do not know what it would have cost for someone to organise proactive maintenance, but I am sure it would not have been anywhere that much.

So what has changed in the last 15 years?

Not much, if your server is out of warranty, parts are still sourced from overseas, if you don’t monitor the server’s health, you do not know when something goes wrong until it stops, and by then it is too late. With larger hard drives, rebuilding arrays still take a while. Some arrays can be restored to while they’re being rebuilt, but that slows down both the rebuild and the restore process. If you are using the built in tools to backup and restore a server, you better have tested it first, there is not much room for error.

How can I reduce the likelihood of this happening to me?

Having a trained professional completing your monthly maintenance, having a scheduled site visit at least once every month or two, having all of your services email our actively monitored helpdesk. How often have you received a phone call from us saying that the backups have failed, have you changed the disk? Will this cost you a lot of money? Only if you don’t contact us. Let us identify how you can have our extensive proactive maintenance for the right cost you can contact us either by phoning 0800727929 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

TALK to your IT provider. That is what we are here for. Here is a real life example of what can go wrong when these are not planned. We were reminded again this week that we should have this conversation.

Every Internet Service Provider (ISP) has its own quirks when changing from one provider to another. One ISP does not like you having your own email server, they block incoming email, you can ask to have the port unblocked, but this can take a day or three (which means NO INCOMMING EMAIL until this is allowed), Another ISP has a hard time providing static IP's, it can take a few days to arrange, Vocus and Voyager make it too easy to change to, that is why we use them.

A few months ago, a customer with their own email server got a new ISP connection, this was a replacement connection meaning the old internet connection was no longer available. What happened next was the worst week of their business.

All email stopped, the mobile phones could not find the email server any more and where constantly notifying that the server was not available,  this customer was not in the fortunate position to have SMX mail filtering, so the emails kept trying to be delivered to the old internet connection. They called us in to help them out, as we had been recommended to them. The first thing we did was to ask the ISP for a static IP address, then we had to ask the ISP to allow port 25 to be enabled. This took three days for them to get back to us with what the new IP address would be. In the mean time, we had setup SMX mail filtering, this allowed the email somewhere to go and be held while the customer's email server was not receiving. then once we had the information, we had to make a change to the records held that tell you how to find www.yourcompany.co.nz or mail.yourcompany.co.nz once that was working then the mobile phones started working, email started flowing properly, but between the time that they made the change to the new ISP and us getting involved, they had lost a large number of emails, orders, request for quotes. All before getting us involved.

Another customer was more fortunate, they did not lose any email, we had set up SMX prior to them changing ISP's, but they lost access to new email for three days while this same scenario played out.

All this could have been entirely avoidable if they had of made ONE five minute phone call. 0800727929 or email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Don't your customers come to you when they need advice? You're their expert. Why shouldn't you do the same? One quick email or phone call can be the difference between success or failure.

 

Here are some things you need to ask your self prior to changing internet providers.

1. Why am I changing? if it is for cost savings, then for less than $10 per month, you will spend more than a years savings, in one hour, on an IT professional if things go south. Lost productivity will cost at least 2 years savings for every hour you are not working. Is it really worth it?

2. Do I have an email server on site? if so you need to allow for a Static IP address, you may or may not know, the whole internet is made up of numbers. By default, most ISP's provide you with a new IP address every time your router reconnects, powers off, the wind changes, whatever the ISP dictates. This is called a Dynamic IP Address, running your own mail server on a Dynamic address is not feasible without mucking around. This will cost between $5 and $20 per month, depending on the ISP and plan you are with.

3. Do I need people to access resources in my network from home or out on the road, if so you will need a static IP, you may or may not know, the whole internet is made up of numbers. By default, most ISP's provide you with a new IP address every time your router reconnects, powers off, the wind changes, whatever the ISP dictates. This is called a Dynamic IP Address, allowing remote access to resources on a Dynamic address is not feasible without mucking around. This will cost between $5 and $20 per month, depending on the ISP and plan you are with.

4. What else am I missing? call or email us and we can help 0800727929 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

With the holidays coming up, we thought it would be a timely reminder to show you how to use Microsoft Office Out Of Office feature, (OOO)

You can set this up quite simply, select file -> automatic Replies (or Out Of Office depending on how old your outlook is.).

There are two sections, one for users INSIDE your organisation and one for users OUTSIDE your organisation.

set this up as you need to and save the settings.

The parameters are enable or disable, always on or on a schedule, if on a schedule, when do you want to schedule it for.

 

 

 

 

 

6 Seconds, that’s all it takes to compromise your VISA card,

Still using VISA? check your statements carefully, it can now take as little as four seconds to compromise your card, including the expiry date and CVV, if a site requires your billing address, that will take 6 seconds. Researchers from New Castle university have identified a major fault that needs to be fixed, some sites have fixed the fault, but the explanation given gives potential thieves a starting point that seems easy enough to exploit.

Using a simple android phone, with an NFC chip (NFC is available on most android phones, and a 5 second google search showed how to complete this), people with ill intentions can stand beside anyone with a visa and grab the 16-digit number off the card. Or they can buy numbers for $1 a piece off websites.

With this information, those whom wish to, can run a query against 400 e-commerce sites that accept credit card payments 26 of these sites only require two fields to verify cards, and 291 uses three fields to verify cards.

Using his own credit card, he was able to automate a process that enabled a friend to pick up money at a money transfer shop in India.

Investigators think that £2.5m was “removed” from Tesco’s users credit cards and was described as frighteningly easy if you have a notebook and an internet connection.

Mastercard does not suffer the same fault.

Some of the websites allow people to guess an unlimited amount of times to get the right info.

For more information on this click here

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With Christmas fast approaching, from $16 per year, why not get everything squared away BEFORE you lose your phone.....

First, you panic, how can I explain to my partner that I have lost the holiday photo’s, little Johnny’s first day at school, photos of loved ones no longer with us?
THE BOSS, All the photos for our million dollar tender are on there, the car accident photos for the court case coming up… I am sure you can think of SOMETHING?
 
Then you think BACKUP, I will get everything back from backup.
WAIT,
When did I backup last, DO I HAVE ONE?
What’s backed up? What is my username and password?
 
I know, we’ll call XSYS, they will help, they always help. Do you know what OUR first question is?
 
3 guesses, …………. We have a winner, where do you keep your backup info
If YOU do not know where this info is, we can only GUESS what we are doing, although, we do guess right more often than we get it wrong.
 
DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE IT TO CHANCE?
 
NO? I thought not, here are a couple of options that you could do next.
1. Nothing. When was the last time that anything went wrong, I take care of my phone, no one steals my stuff, I KNOW what my backup strategy is and how to recover.
2.
Email or call XSYS on 0800727545 and get one of our trained staff to look over your company’s existing mobile phones backup strategy.
 
With Christmas fast approaching, why not get everything squared away BEFORE you lose your phone.

 

Disaster recovery is a process that everyone hopes will never be necessary. The truth is that disasters of every type happen almost daily. Only a few ever reach the news media. The aftermath of a disaster in many ways can be more frustrating than the initial event. Here are some tips about ways to make recovering less traumatic.

Although this information is focused mainly on efforts of businesses to recover from an event, the tips apply to private citizens as well. A comprehensive planning effort is crucial for any successful results. Since there are various types of disasters, you should consider various scenarios and how you are able to minimize the long term effects of these events. While you cannot envision every possible danger and event, you can work to minimize the results.

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What if one decision about your security gave your personal movie two completely different endings.

 How do you want your movie to end about the following day.

 THE FAIRY TALE ENDING, or THE NIGHTMARE ENDING.

 “Setting the scene.”

You are out visiting a customer, taking photos of the existing site, your job is to make this better.  

 …..annnnd ACTION!

 After you take your photos you jump in your car and talk with your supplier. You arrange a quote for the items, when you have finished your phone call, you drive back to the office. On your way back to the office, while stopped at the traffic lights, someone does not stop in time and not so gently rear-ends your car. You get out and take photos of their driver’s license and the damage done to both your cars and the surrounding area (as you do), while taking their details, you receive a confidential email from your supplier with all your pricing in it. You get hangry (hungry/angry) so you decide to grab some lunch, you go into the café, buy your food and get back to your car to see your door is open, and your phone and notebook is no longer sitting where you left it in a hurry to get food. Your working data is stored on the note book, all you photos of jobs and family holidays are stored on that notebook.

 Now here is where this movie can go two ways.

THE FAIRY TALE ENDING, or THE NIGHTMARE ENDING.

  1. THE FAIRY TALE ENDING

You go back into the café (after locking your car, yes, yes I know, horse bolted) ask to borrow the phone, ring the office to let them know what has happened. The office rings XSYS (on 0800 727 929) and let us know that your phone is stolen. We automatically put a trace on the phone, identify where it is, enable the anti-theft technologies, (which include taking snapshots of the person trying to use the phone) and emailing the photos and the tracking information to your office to pass on to the insurance/police. So they can begin the recovery of the phone and notebook. Remotely wipe the phone of the contents.  Stop the little buggers from putting their own SIM card into your phone. We can help you with access to your photo’s to give to the insurance agent about the car crash, site photos for your customer quote.  XSYS IT will work with your office when your replacement phone and notebook comes in, depending on the model, restore your phone logs, text messages, applications, Photos note, and anything else that was setup before it was stolen. The notebook is recovered from the back completed just before you left the office, setup with all your programs, desktop background of your children, the icon’s just the way you like them. All your family photos are there, as well as the company ones, (but we all know which ones are more important, don’t we……).

You quote from the photos and win the tender, being the most accurate for the customer. Multi-million dollar contract, setting you up for life.

The person that hit your car try’s to say that they had a green light and you stopped, causing the accident, and they have witnesses, your photos don’t show any one around, there were no witnesses, they are lying. -  “And so your honour I rest my case”

The insurance company track the little buggers down and retrieve the stolen phone and notebook, the police get involved and the thieves get slapped on the wrist with a wet bus ticket.

 And CUT

 End result: YOU WIN THE DAY

 OR

  2. THE NIGHTMARE ENDING

You go back into the café (after locking your car, yes, yes I know, horse bolted (sounds familiar so far, doesn’t it)) ask to borrow the phone, ring the office to let them know what has happened. – from here the nightmare begins. The office rings XSYS (on 0800 727 929),

You have to go back to the customer and explain that some little bugger stole your phone, and that you did not have it backed up. You are in a rush to meet the deadline, you don’t take the same photos as you did before, you miss a critical bit, the person that stole your phone hacks your phone, sends the supplier quote to your customer,  you look unprofessional and don’t get the tender.

(Hey, it’s a MOVIE)

Your notebook wasn’t backed up since before your dream holiday to Disneyland, you lose all the photo’s, but hey you still have the memories right, that’s enough?

The person that hit your car try’s to say that they had a green light and you stopped, causing the accident, and they have witnesses, you do not have any photos showing anything, you know there were no witnesses, they are lying, they call some friends and they state you stopped and caused the accident. -  “And so your honour I rest my case”

End result: YOU LOST THE DAY

 How do you want your movie to end?

Call or email XSYS and we can attempt to give you the fairy tale ending. We can’t guarantee the multi-million dollar contract, but everything else is possible with the right technology, starting from $16per user per year.

Every Kiwi already knew it, but with the All Blacks winning the Laureus World Team of the Year award earlier this year, it’s now official: the All Blacks are the best team in the world. But what makes them so phenomenally successful? There’s no doubt that the All Blacks invest a great deal of effort in building a sense of legacy, continual improvement and high expectation which has generated extraordinary success. In this article we look at the key lessons we can draw from the All Blacks, which can be applied to generate success in the world of business.

Get the basics right

Whether it’s improving the line-out or developing passing and tackling skills, the All Blacks spend a lot of time and effort practising and perfecting those basic skills of the game. Businesses could well benefit from devoting more time to identifying what the relevant basics are for your company and making sure that you get them right every time.

Create a learning environment

Another important aspect of the All Blacks winning formula is their emphasis on continual improvement. This philosophy was inspired by Graham Henry’s experience as a headmaster and it involves training and development to improve and enhance the collective skills of the team. Individual personal development is charted on a day by day, week by week, season by season basis. Businesses that create a learning environment tend to be more dynamic, high achieving and positive places to work. And that value system will have a huge impact on your bottom dollar.

Review and reassess

After every game the All Blacks take time to collectively review their performance. Asking questions such as what worked well, what didn’t work so well and how could we do things differently are central to the All Blacks success story. The notion of continual review though is usually overlooked in business. Too often we get caught up in the busyness of day-to-day operations and we neglect to take stock and reflect on our overall performance. Taking the time to do so, and to do so thoroughly, will make a significant difference to enhancing productivity throughout the organisation.

Clear communication

Another thing that the All Blacks are really good at doing is coming up with a game plan, communicating that plan to the players and getting them to sign up to it.

Having a clear plan of action is a must for any business. Being clear and concise in the way you communicate that plan to staff members, ensuring that they are signed up to the plan and understand where their contribution fits in, are all valuable lessons that we can apply in the workplace.

It may not be possible for all of us to be world beaters like the All Backs. But applying some of the practices they have employed to create those amazing achievements will go a long way to securing success for your company in the world of business.

 

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